Depression is the most commonly encountered psychological problem in patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Depression has recently been shown to significantly impact on the morbidity and mortality of patients undergoing therapy for ESRD. The present study was designed as a pilot study to evaluate the feasibility of screening a large cohort of patients maintained on chronic peritoneal dialysis (CPD) for depression and then pharmacologically treating those patients assessed to have clinical depression. One hundred thirty-six patients maintained on CPD in our CPD unit were screened for depression using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), a self-administered questionnaire. Patients with scores of 11 or greater were referred to a trained psychiatric interviewer for further evaluation to confirm the diagnosis of clinical depression and determine whether the patient was a candidate for antidepressant medication. Sixty-seven patients had BDI scores of 11 or greater, and 60 of these patients were asked to participate in further evaluation and possible therapy. Only 27 patients agreed to further study and were evaluated by a trained psychiatric interviewer for clinical depression. Twenty-three of these patients were assessed to have clinical depression, and 22 patients were eligible for antidepressant medication based on their scores on the Hamilton Depression Scale and psychiatric interview. Eleven patients completed a 12-week course of therapy with antidepressant medication, and their BDI scores decreased from a mean of 17.1 +/- 6.9 (SD) to a mean of 8.6 +/- 3.2. Seven patients were treated with sertraline, 2 patients with bupropion, and 2 patients with nefazodone. It is concluded that (1) depression is commonly present in patients maintained on CPD, (2) the BDI is a useful tool to use to screen for clinical depression, and (3) clinical depression is treatable with medication in this patient population.