We studied 733 cadaveric renal transplant patients (747 transplants) under cyclosporin immunosuppression, to: (i) establish the risk profile for acute renal failure (ARF) after renal transplantation in a unit using many sub-optimal donors; (ii) assess the long-term prognostic relevance of ARF; and (iii) explore the synergistic prognostic significance of delayed graft function and acute rejection during the early post-transplant period. Transplanting from a non-heart-beating or elderly donor, protracted cold ischaemia, haemodialysis immediately before transplant surgery, poor HLA matching, and grafting to a hypersensitized recipient without residual renal function, all independently predicted delayed graft function. This delay had no detrimental effect on patient or graft survival, but prolonged ARF was associated with increased mortality from infection. Late markers of graft dysfunction (poor graft function, proteinuria, hypertension) were highly prevalent among grafts affected by ARF, specially in prolonged ARF. Delayed graft function and early acute rejection showed a definite, albeit not strong, additive impact on late graft survival, and also on the prevalence of late markers of graft dysfunction.