The single-dose pharmacokinetics of imipenem (N-formimidoyl thienamycin) was evaluated in 13 pediatric patients (mean age 5.2 +/- 3.5 years). Imipenem was administered in combination with cilastatin as either a 10 mg/kg or 25 mg/kg dose (not to exceed 500 mg) over 15 minutes. Plasma disposition in children was best described by a two-compartment open model. The distribution phase was rapid (t1/2 lambda 1 = 0.18 hours) and was followed by a monoexponential elimination phase (t1/2 lambda 2 = 1.2 hours). The calculated value for the apparent volume of distribution (0.66 L/kg) was similar to that of total body water. The total plasma clearance was rapid (0.36 L/hr/kg). Direct proportionality was exhibited between administered dose and either resultant plasma concentration or area under the plasma concentration versus time curve. Comparison of imipenem plasma pharmacokinetic data derived from these children with data reported from adult subjects revealed disparities for both the apparent volume of distribution and plasma clearance. Based on preliminary pharmacokinetic simulations using parameters generated from our study, a 25.0 mg/kg dose of imipenem administered every 6 hours appears adequate for initiation of therapy in children.