The aorta is the principal capacitive element of the arterial tree and its increased stiffness, determined by measurement of aortic pulse wave velocity (PWV), is a strong independent predictor of cardiovascular mortality in the general population and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients. Whether stiffness of ESRD patients' peripheral arteries has the same prognostic value has never been investigated. A cohort of 305 ESRD patients was followed for 70+/-49 months (mean+/-SD). Ninety-six deaths of cardiovascular origin occurred. At entry into the study, together with standard clinical and biochemical analyses, patients' aortic, brachial artery, and femorotibial PWV were determined. Based on Kaplan-Meier survival curve analyses and Cox proportional hazards analyses, adjusted for age, pulse pressure, and clinical data, aortic PWV was a significant and independent predictor of outcome. Neither brachial artery nor femotibial artery stiffness was able to predict cardiovascular outcome. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis of aortic PWV indicated the cutoff value of 10.75 m/s, with 84% sensitivity, 73% specificity, 87% negative predictive value, and 72% positive predictive value. These results provide evidence that, in ESRD, increased stiffness of capacitive arteries, like the aorta, is an independent strong predictor of cardiovascular mortality, whereas stiffness of peripheral conduit arteries had no prognostic value.