Improvements in survival in dialysis patients over the past few decades have been disappointing. Recent prospective trials such the haemodialysis study have not shown conclusive improvements. Two recent observational studies have found a striking survival advantage for haemodiafiltration (HDF). This review covers the differences between HDF and conventional haemodialysis (HD) and the history of the technological advances in the HDF technique. In addition, it explores the putative benefits of HDF over HD. While the observational studies provide a basis for optimism that HDF will provide benefit to dialysis patients, definitive conclusions cannot be drawn until the results of randomized controlled trials are available. While the evidence in favour of HDF at this stage is observational only, there are no studies suggesting that the treatment is detrimental. The use of HDF should probably be increased, particularly in centres where an increase in the frequency and duration of dialysis cannot be readily achieved.