Peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT) can selectively measure the densities of cortical and trabecular bone, but there is limited information about its use in patients with renal osteodystrophy. Thus pQCT (Norland XCT-2000, Stratec, Pforzheim, Germany) was performed at the ultradistal radius in 21 patients aged 16+/-3.6 (SD) years on continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis. Trabecular bone density (TBD) was higher in patients, 206+/-16 mg/cm(3), than in controls, 182.7+/-24.8 mg/cm(3) ( P<0.0001), whereas cortical bone density (CBD) was lower in patients, 946.5+/-147.5 mg/cm(3), than in controls, 1,153+/-25.4 mg/cm(3) ( P<0.001). TBD was inversely correlated with age ( r=-0.59, P=0.05), height ( r=-0.59, P<0.01), and weight ( r=-0.51, P<0.05). In contrast, CBD was positively correlated with age ( r=0.53, P<0.05), height ( r=0.56, P<0.05), and weight ( r=0.53, P<0.05). CBD was inversely related to serum alkaline phosphatase ( r=-0.71, P<0.001) and parathyroid hormone levels ( r=-0.50, P<0.05). In patients with adynamic bone, TBD was less, 192+/-9 mg/cm(3), than in those with high-turnover lesions, 215+/-13 mg/cm(3), P<0.001. CBD, however, was lower in patients with high-turnover lesions, 900+/-151 mg/cm(3), than in those with low turnover, 1,022+/-111 mg/cm(3), P<0.05. Compared with controls, in patients with high-turnover lesions, CBD was lower ( P<0.0001) and TBD higher ( P<0.0001). These findings suggest that pQCT may be an additional tool in the assessment of renal osteodystrophy.