Background. Given the severe organ shortage and the documented superior results obtained with living (vs. cadaver) donor kidney transplants, we have adopted a very aggressive policy for the use of living donors. Currently, we make thorough attempts to locate a living related donor (LRD) or a living unrelated donor (LURD) before proceeding with a cadaver transplant. Methods. We compared the results of our LURD versus LRD transplants to determine any significant difference in outcome. Results. Between 1/1/84 and 6/30/98, we performed 711 adult kidney transplants with non-HLA-identical living donors. Of these, 595 procedures used LRDs and 116 used LURDs. Immunosuppression for both groups was cyclosporine-based, although LURD recipients received 5-7 days of induction therapy (antilymphocyte globulin or antithymocyte globulin), whereas LRD recipients did not. LURD recipients tended to be older, to have inferior HLA matching, and to have older donors than did the LRD recipients (all factors potentially associated with decreased graft survival). Short-term results, including initial graft function and incidence of acute rejection, were similar in the two groups. LURD recipients had a slightly higher incidence of cytomegalovirus disease (P=NS). We found no difference in patient and graft survival rates. However, the incidence of biopsy-proven chronic rejection was significantly lower among LURD recipients (16.7%) for LRD recipients and 10.0% for LURD recipients at 6 years posttransplant; P=0.05). LRD recipients also had a greater incidence of late (>6 months posttransplant) acute rejection episodes than did the LURD recipients (8.6% vs. 2.6%, P=0.04). The exact reason for these findings is unknown. Conclusion. Although LURD recipients have poorer HLA matching and older donors, their patient and graft survival rates are equivalent to those of non-HLA-identical LRD recipients. The incidence of biopsy-proven chronic rejection is lower in LURD transplants. Given this finding and the superior results of living donor (vs. cadaver) transplants, a thorough search should be made for a living donor - LRD or LURD - before proceeding with a cadaver transplant.