BACKGROUND: Upon the availability of a cadaveric donor kidney, a delicate allocation process precedes every transplantation. A remodeled Eurotransplant Kidney Allocation System (ETKAS)-derived from simulation studies-was installed in March 1996. The purpose was to adjust long waiting times and international exchange balances, while aiming at an optimal HLA-mismatch distribution. The new ETKAS consisted of a point-score system that was 100% patient oriented. METHODS: The impact of the new ETKAS on the composition of the waiting list, and the outcome of the allocation procedures during its first year, were evaluated and compared with the results obtained in 1995. RESULTS: The percentage of long-waiting patients and of patients with poorly matchable HLA phenotype increased significantly, from 9% to 19% and from 19% to 29%, respectively. Zero HLA-A-, HLA-B-, HLA-DR-mismatched patients still comprised 23% of the kidney transplant activity. The kidney exchange of the different Eurotransplant countries became balanced within 4 months; this persisted during the rest of the year. Pediatric patients had a high transplantation rate due to an assignment of extra points. The composition of the waiting list showed, after 1 year, fewer long-waiting patients and fewer patients with rare HLA phenotypes. CONCLUSIONS: The new ETKAS was able in its first year to meet the goals set at its introduction. In comparison with the old ETKAS, there was a better trade-off between HLA matching and waiting time. The value of computer simulation studies has been demonstrated impressively in the context of organ allocation.