Immunosensitization against the human lymphocyte antigen (HLA) is a problem in most transplant centers. It prolongs the waiting list time in addition to risk of frequent acute rejections. To avoid these problems, various pretransplantation approaches have been attempted e.g. plasmapheresis (PP). The present retrospective study reports our experience with PP in this respect over a 5 year period. Twenty-three chronic hemodialysis patients with circulating panel reactive antibodies (> or = 50%) and previous kidney graft rejections were treated with 12 PP each. In addition to this, immunosuppression with cyclophosphamide and prednisolone were administered on the first day of PP and after tapering continued until transplantation. HLA-antibodies, as measured by the panel reactive antibodies and the antibody titer, decreased from about 70% to 30% (p < 0.001) and 5 steps of titerdilution, respectively with PP and immunosuppressive drugs; Twenty-two patients were transplanted with cadaveric grafts. Eight grafts were lost due to irreversible rejection, and one due to the patient's death 2 months after transplantation. The cumulative five-year graft survival at the time of follow-up was 59%. Adequate kidney function (serum creatinine mean 150 mumol/l) was observed in all grafts (n = 3) still functioning 60 months posttransplant. We conclude that pretransplantation plasmapheresis together with immunosuppressive drugs (cyclophosphamide and prednisolone) is useful in the removal of HLA antibodies in immunized patients awaiting kidney transplantation. It can be considered a valuable approach to increase the chances of successful transplantations.