Growth failure remains a significant problem for children with chronic renal insufficiency and end-stage renal disease (ESRD). We examined whether growth failure is associated with more-frequent hospitalizations or higher mortality in children with kidney disease. We studied data on prevalent United States pediatric patients with ESRD in 1990 who were followed through 1995. Patients were categorized according to the standard deviation score (SDS) of their incremental growth during 1990: severe (<-3 SDS), moderate growth failure (>-3 and <-2 SDS), and normal growth (>-2 SDS). Among 1,112 prevalent pediatric dialysis and transplant patients (<17 years, Tanner I-IV), those with severe and moderate growth failure had higher hospitalization rates [relative risk (RR) 1.14 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1, 1.2] and 1.24 [95% CI 1.2, 1.3]] respectively than those with normal growth after adjustment for age, gender, race, cause and duration of ESRD, and treatment modality (dialysis or transplant) in 1990. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis showed 5-year survival of 85% and 90% for patients with severe and moderate growth failure, respectively, compared with 96% for patients with normal growth ( P<0.001, log-rank). Cox proportional hazards analysis revealed that those with severe (RR 2.9, 95% CI 1.6, 5.3) and moderate growth failure (RR 2.01, 95% CI 1.1, 3.6) had an increased risk of death compared with youths with normal growth, after adjustment. A higher proportion of deaths in the severe and moderate growth failure groups were attributed to infectious causes (22% and 18.7%, respectively) than in the normal growth group (15.6%). We conclude that growth failure is associated with a more-complicated clinical course and increased risk of death for children with kidney failure.