Despite the many technical advances in medical care and dialysis delivery, mortality and morbidity remain high in end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients. A number of factors seem to contribute. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death: volume overload, anaemia, hypertension, arteriovenous fistula, uraemia-related myocardial cell injury all contribute to the development of ischaemic heart disease and congestive heart failure. The underlying disease is determinant for prognosis, with diabetics displaying an excess cardiovascular mortality. Elderly are also more likely to experience intercurrent medical conditions, vascular disease and diabetes, thus increasing the risk of death. Protein-energy malnutrition and wasting also contribute to the higher mortality in renal replacement therapy. Although nowadays high-risk patients are dialysed too, the rate of acceptance of ESRD patients still varies widely in different countries, possibly because of hidden selection criteria. The patients in the registries with a higher acceptance rate are more likely to be affected by co-morbid conditions and greater disease severity; the assessment of these co-morbid conditions is extremely important when comparing outcomes in different haemodialysis populations. Dialysis adequacy, obtained by means of longer duration of the treatment, is also of paramount importance; it allows minimizing the clinical effects of ultrafiltration and ensure that correct dry weight is reached. This means decreasing the incidence of intradialytic hypotensive episodes, but also improving blood pressure control, a strong predictor of survival. Family and social support, together with adequate medical care, greatly affect the quality of life of patients and can improve compliance to dialysis, diet and drugs and therefore survival.