1. Chronic renal failure (CRF) is associated with rapidly progressive atherosclerotic vascular disease. In the present study, carotid arterial intima-medial thickness (IMT) was assessed in a large cohort of patients with CRF and matched controls and related to risk factors. 2. A total of 159 subjects with CRF (serum creatinine > or =0.40 mmol/L) aged > 50 years (mean (+/-SD) 63.8+/-7.7 years) and 159 healthy controls matched for age, sex and smoking status were studied. 3. The IMT was determined using B-mode ultrasound measurements of the far wall of both common carotid arteries and presented as the mean IMT. Fasting plasma homocysteine (tHcy) was measured in the CRF group. 4. Intima-medial thickness was significantly greater in CRF patients than controls (0.89+/-0.17 vs 0.73+/-0.13 mm, respectively) after matching for age, sex and smoking status. Heart rate and pulse pressure were also significantly increased. The tHcy was increased two-fold in the CRF group (27.7+/-11.3 micromol/L; normal < 13.0 micromol/L) and did not correlate with carotid IMT. 5. Compared with controls after adjusting for traditional risk factors, patients with CRF exhibit significantly increased IMT.