Neonates, especially preterms, are known to have low glomerular filtration rates (GFR). This may result in elevated trough concentrations during multiple administration of aminoglycosides (AGs), potentially leading to nephro- and ototoxic reactions. The once-daily administration (q.d.) of AGs has been shown to be equally or better tolerated in adults and children than the conventional schedules (twice daily, b.i.d.; thrice daily, t.i.d.), while offering potential pharmacodynamic and nursing advantages. No data, however, are available for neonates. As a consequence, this pilot study was conducted in order to assess the tolerance of the once-a-day administration of amikacin in comparison with the twice daily dose regimen, in relation to the pharmacokinetics of the drug under these two schedules. 22 Male neonates (gestational age > or = 34 weeks; postnatal age < or = 2 days) were randomized to receive amikacin (AK) (15 mg/kg/day) q.d. (n = 10) or b.i.d. (n = 12) together with ampicillin (50 mg/kg/12 h). AK plasma levels were measured at days 1, 3, 5 and 7 of treatment just before the next dose (trough level) and 1 h after completion of infusion (peak level) and after 3 and 6 h only at day 1. Due to the small size of the samples, no difference in efficacy could be assessed and was not the aim per se. Glomerular dysfunction was assessed by creatinine clearance, and tubular injuries by the urinary excretion of proteins (retinol binding protein, beta 2-microglobulin, clara cell protein (P1) and microalbumin), enzymes (N-acetyl-beta-D-glucosaminidase, alkaline phosphatase, alanine aminopeptidase, and gamma-glutamyltransferase), and total phospholipids (TPL) in urine. Ototoxicity was assessed by brainstem auditory evoked potentials (BAEPs) at days 0, 3 and 9 of therapy. Eight healthy neonates served as controls. All patients showed a normal and similar increase of GFR during the first postnatal days. Proteinuria did not increase, but enzymuria and TPL increased significantly during the treatment in both AK groups without significant difference between groups. BAEPs at day 9 were not significantly different between treated and untreated patients. We conclude from this pilot study that, in the absence of more toxicity, the q.d. administration of AK in neonates of > or = 34 weeks of gestational age may be recommended over its bid schedule in view of its potential advantages.