It has been suggested that Asian patients have reduced survival after liver transplantation because of greater recurrence of hepatitis B virus (HBV). We analyzed the outcome of Asian and non-Asian patients receiving transplants for chronic hepatitis B between May 1988 and March 1994. Baseline Child-Pugh score and United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) status, HBV recurrence, and survival were compared between the two groups. All but one patient received variable doses of hepatitis B immune globulin. Mean follow-up of surviving patients was 28 months (range, 3-71 months). Fifteen Asians and 20 non-Asians underwent transplantation. Six of 15 Asians (40%) and 4 of 20 non-Asians (20%) died during the study period. Although Asians had a lower 1-year survival than non-Asians (59% for Asians and 94% for non-Asians), the 5-year actuarial survival was not different (59% and 57% for Asians and non-Asians, respectively). The causes of death in 5 of 6 Asians were factors other than recurrent hepatitis B, and 4 of 5 deaths occurred within 60 days after transplantation. Eighty percent of Asian patients were Child-Pugh class C at referral, compared with 50% of non-Asians, and Asians were more likely to be status 1 at transplantation (40% vs. 10%; P < .05). By contrast, all four deaths in non-Asians occurred late and were secondary to recurrent HBV infection. Of patients surviving more than 60 days after transplantation, 7 of 11 Asians (64%) and 10 of 20 non-Asians (50%) developed recurrent HBV infection (NS). Late mortality attributable to HBV recurrence was lower but not significantly different in Asians (1 of 7 [14%]) than in non-Asians (4 of 10 [40%]). In summary, HBV recurrence and late HBV-related mortality in Asians and non-Asians is similar after liver transplantation for chronic hepatitis B. Late referral and more advanced chronic liver disease at the time of transplantation probably account for the lower 1-year survival of Asians after liver transplantation.