In a national survey, chronic renal failure (CRF) in Swedish children was studied during the period 1986-1994; 118 children (72 boys, 46 girls) with CRF, defined as a glomerular filtration rate below 30 ml/min per 1.73 m2 body surface area, were identified. The median annual incidence of CRF was 7.7 and that of terminal renal failure (TRF) 6.4 per million children. The prevalence of preterminal renal failure decreased from 29 to 21 per million children over the study period, while the prevalence of TRF increased from 17.8 in 1986 to 38 per million children in 1994. The increase in TRF prevalence was due to a lower incidence of deaths due to uremia and a slightly increased incidence of TRF compared with an earlier study period, 1978-1985. The results point to a more active treatment of uremia in Sweden now than during the period 1978-1985. The congenital causes of CRF (renal malformations, obstructive conditions, and hereditary disorders) accounted for 67.5% of all cases, which is high compared with data from other countries. No child with non-obstructive pyelonephritis as a cause of CRF was identified. Age at detection of CRF and time from detection of CRF to TRF were studied. As a high proportion of children, 42%, reached 16 years of age without entering TRF, the value of presenting time from CRF to TRF for the remaining individuals is questionable. There were only minor differences in primary renal disease, age at presentation, and time from CRF to TRF when the study results were compared with those from 1978-1985.