To clarify the demographic and clinicolaboratory features of postdialysis fatigue (PDF), we enrolled 85 patients on maintenance hemodialysis in a cross-sectional study using validated questionnaires and chart review. Forty-three patients complained of fatigue after dialysis. On formal testing using the Kidney Disease Questionnaire, the PDF group had statistically greater severity of fatigue and somatic complaints than the group of patients without subjective fatigue (P = 0.03 and 0.04, respectively). On a scale measuring intensity of fatigue (1 = least to 5 = worst), the PDF group average was 3.4 +/- 1.2. PDF subjects reported that 80% +/- 25% of dialysis treatments were followed by fatigue symptoms. In 28 (65%) of patients, the symptoms started with the first dialysis treatment. They reported needing an average of 4.8 hours of rest or sleep to overcome the fatigue symptoms (range, 0 to 24 hours). There were no significant differences between patients with and without PDF in the following parameters: age; sex; type of renal disease; presence of diabetes mellitus, heart disease (congestive, ischemic), or chronic obstructive lung disease; blood pressure response to dialysis; type or adequacy of dialysis regimen; hematocrit; electrolytes; blood urea nitrogen; creatinine; cholesterol; albumin; parathyroid hormone; ejection fraction; and use of antihistamines, benzodiazepines, and narcotics. In the fatigue group, there was significantly greater use of antihypertensive medications known to have fatigue as a side effect (P = 0.007). Depression was more common in the fatigue group by Beck Depression score (11.6 +/- 8.0 v 7.8 +/- 6.3; P = 0.02). We conclude that (1) postdialysis fatigue is a common, often incapacitating symptom in patients on chronic extracorporeal dialysis; (2) no routinely measured parameter of clinical or dialytic function appears to predict postdialysis fatigue; and (3) depression is highly associated with postdialysis fatigue, but the cause-effect relationship is unclear.