Between 14 December 1989 and 17 December 1993, 43 patients undergoing kidney transplantation alone at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh received FK506 as the primary immunosuppressive agent. The mean recipient age was 10.2±4.8 years (range 0.7-17.4 years), with 7 (16%) children under 5 years of age and 2 (5%) under 2 years of age. Fifteen (35%) children underwent retransplantation, and 5 (12%) had a panel-reactive antibody level greater than 40%. Twenty-two (51%) transplants were with cadaveric donors and 21 (49%) were with living donors. The mean follow-up was 25±14 months; there were no deaths; 1- and 3-year actuarial graft survival was 98% and 85%. The mean serum creatinine and blood urea nitrogen were 1.2±0.6 mg/dl and 26±11 mg/dl; the calculated creatinine clearance was 75±23 ml/min per 1.73 m2. Twenty-four (62%) patients have been successfully with-drawn from steroids and 24 (62%) require no anti-hypertensive medication. Improved growth was seen, particularly in pre-adolescent children off steroids. Between 28 July 1990 and 2 December 1993, 24 children were referred for rescue therapy with FK506, 14.6±16.4 months (range 1.1-53.2 months) after transplantation. Nineteen (79%) were referred because of resistant rejection; 4 (17%) were referred because of proteinuria; 1 (4%) was switched because of steroid-related obesity. There were no deaths; 1-and 2-year graft survival was 75% and 68%; 17 (71%) patients were successfully rescued, including 1 of 2 patients who arrived on dialysis; 4 (24%) of the successfully rescued patients were weaned off steroids. While not without side effects, which include nephrotoxicity, neurotoxicity, diabetogenicity, and viral complications, FK506 appears to be an effective immunosuppressive agent for both primary and rescue therapy after kidney transplantation. Its steroid-sparing qualities may be of particular importance in the pediatric population.