Preemptive cadaveric renal transplantation (PCRT) maximizes the chance of maintaining high quality of life and may avoid the morbidity of dialysis and the associated financial costs. These benefits are offset by disadvantages, which include the possibility of transplantation many months before the need for dialysis, resulting in wasted organ function; an immediate risk of graft failure with conversion to a dialysis-dependent state; and uncertainty of the safety of PCRT. Patients who underwent PCRT between June 1976 and December 1994 at the Oxford Transplant Centre were compared with a matched cohort of first cadaveric transplant recipients who were dialysis-dependent when transplanted. The 116 patients in the PCRT cohort were well matched to the control group with respect to sex, age, blood group, HLA match, degree of sensitization, donor age, immunosuppression, and year of transplantation. Patient and graft survival were significantly better in the PCRT group. The difference in graft survival did not appear to be completely explained by better patient survival, as suggested by a trend toward better graft survival after excluding death with a functioning graft as a cause of failure. Among surviving grafts there were no significant differences in graft function as assessed by 1, 2, and 3 year plasma creatinine levels. In conclusion, PCRT appears to be safe and may even be associated with superior graft survival when compared with conventional transplantation. Early inclusion on a transplant waiting list with a view to PCRT can be justified with respect to the clinical outcome but the financial costs and implications for the utilization of cadaveric donor kidneys must also be considered.