Extended daily dialysis (EDD) is an easily implemented alternative to continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT) in the intensive care unit (ICU). Since EDD offers most of the advantages of CRRT, we sought to compare the effectiveness of these two modalities. In this 2-year study, 54 ICU patients with ARF were treated with either continuous hemodialysis (CHD) or EDD. Oliguria was present in 64% of patients who received CHD vs. 73% of EDD patients (p=NS) while 93% of CHD and 81% of EDD patients required mechanical ventilation (p=NS). Patients treated with EDD were younger than those who received CHD (47.0 +/- 12.6 vs. 56.7 +/- 13.7, p=0.009), but there were no significant differences in gender or mean APACHE II scores at the time of randomization. Mean arterial blood pressures measured during treatment were maintained between 70 and 80 mmHg for both EDD and CHD and average daily serum electrolyte levels fell within normal ranges for EDD and CHD. Average daily fluid input and output were 5.8 +/- 3.3 L and 6.0 +/- 3.2 L for CHD vs. 3.3 +/- 2.6 and 3.0 +/- 1.7 L for EDD after exclusion of data from 2 burn patients. Hourly heparin anticoagulation rates were 1080 U/hour for CHD and 643 U/hour for EDD, p=0.02. Anticoagulation-free treatments were performed during 43% of all EDD treatments vs. 21% of all CHD treatments, p<0.001. Clotting of the dialyzer or circuit occurred at least once during 51% of all CHD treatment days vs. 22% of EDD treatments (p<0.001). We conclude that EDD is a safe, effective alternative to CRRT that offers comparable hemodynamic stability and excellent small solute control.