The pathogenesis of NC in VLBW infants appears to be multifactorial. The vulnerability of extreme immaturity and the underdevelopment of renal function may be the most important variables. In some ways, we view this problem as similar to that of retinopathy of prematurity. (Clearly the exposure of the retina to high partial pressures of oxygen contributes to the development of retinopathy of prematurity but other variables--some known, such as an immature retina, and others not yet defined--must be present.) Hypercalciuria is common in the VLBW infant, yet not all develop NC. Decreased glomerular filtration rate, low citrate excretion, and frequently an alkaline urine are in part due to the immaturity of renal function of these infants. The need for prolonged hyperalimentation resulting in increased oxalate excretion and the development of BPD frequently requiring diuretics that may cause phosphaturia and magnesium depletion and that may increase calcium excretion are more common in the smallest and sickest of premature infants. Even transient insults to the kidneys, such as hypoxia or hypotension or the use of nephrotoxic drugs that provoke tubular injury and cell death with the probability of crystal formation and growth by way of heterogeneous nucleation, are likely to occur more frequently in this vulnerable population.