The incidence of nephrotoxicity in patients receiving vancomycin alone or in combination with an aminoglycoside was prospectively evaluated. A total of 231 courses of antibiotic therapy in 224 patients were consecutively monitored over 28-month period. One hundred and sixty-eight patients received vancomycin alone, 63 patients received vancomycin with an aminoglycoside, and 103 patients received gentamicin. Nephrotoxicity was defined as an increase in serum creatinine of 0.5 mg/dl or a 50% increase above baseline, whichever was greater. Eight patients (5%) receiving vancomycin alone, 14 patients (22%) receiving vancomycin with an aminoglycoside, and 11 patients (11%) receiving gentamicin alone were found to have nephrotoxicity. Factors found to be associated with increased risk of nephrotoxicity in patients receiving vancomycin were concurrent therapy with an aminoglycoside, length of treatment with vancomycin (greater than 21 days), and vancomycin trough serum concentration (greater than 10 mg/l). Although the incidence of vancomycin nephrotoxicity is low, patients receiving vancomycin therapy with the above risk factors should be closely monitored.