We reviewed our experience with surgical revascularization (SR) for renal artery disease (RAD) in 361 patients from 1975 through 1984 to illustrate the evolving role of SR in the management of these patients. The time intervals selected for comparison were 1975 through 1980 (n = 174) and 1981 through 1984 (n = 187). Since 1981, in patients with atherosclerosis, SR has been done more often in elderly patients (30% vs 10.4%), in patients with generalized atherosclerosis (87% vs 73%), and for the sole purpose of preserving renal function (36% vs 14%). Since 1981, fewer patients with atherosclerosis have undergone SR solely to treat renovascular hypertension (26% vs 41%). Since 1981, in patients with fibrous dysplasia, SR has been done in more patients with branch renal artery disease (70% vs 28%). These trends in the performance of SR have been due to the advent of percutaneous transluminal angioplasty as effective therapy for certain patients, improved results of SR in elderly patients with atherosclerosis, an enhanced appreciation of advanced atherosclerotic RAD as a correctable cause of renal failure, and the development of more effective techniques for SR in patients with severe aortic atherosclerosis and branch RAD. The overall clinical results of SR remain excellent in properly selected patients with RAD.