Nineteen malnourished chronic peritoneal dialysis patients who were ingesting a low protein intake underwent metabolic balance studies to test whether a dialysate that contained amino acids would improve their protein nutrition. Patients lived in the hospital for 35 days while they ate a constant diet and underwent their usual regimen of continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD). The first 15 days served as a Baseline Phase. For the last 20 days, the usual dialysate was substituted with a dialysate of essentially the same composition except that it contained 1.1% essential and nonessential amino acids and no glucose. Patients received one or two dialysate exchanges with amino acids each day depending on the amount necessary to bring the individual's dietary protein plus dialysate amino acid intake to 1.1 to 1.3 g/kg body weight/day. During Baseline, patients were in neutral nitrogen balance; net protein anabolism was positive, as determined from 15N-glycine studies. After commencing intraperitoneal amino acid therapy, nitrogen balance became significantly positive, there was a significant increase in net protein anabolism, the fasting morning plasma amino acid pattern became more normal, and serum total protein and transferrin concentrations rose. Patients generally tolerated the treatment well, although some patients developed mild metabolic acidemia. These findings indicate that a dialysate containing amino acids may improve protein malnutrition in CAPD patients ingesting low protein intakes.