The utility of measurement of the inferior vena cava diameter (IVCD) with ultrasound for the assessment of fluid status and posthemodialysis dry weight was studied in 35 hemodialysis (HD) patients, 17 with and 18 without hypertension. In 17 patients (group A), IVCD was measured before and 35 to 40 minutes after HD, pre-HD blood volume (BV) was measured with radiolabeled albumin and post-HD BV was calculated from the change in hematocrit. In 18 patients (group B), IVCD was measured repeatedly during HD and 2 hours after HD. Changes in BV were recorded by monitoring of the hematocrit "on line." Body weight, blood pressure (BP), BV, and IVCD decreased in the entire population. In group A, BV was significantly larger in the hypertensive patients than in the normotensive patients, and it was correlated with the mean BP before and after HD. In the whole population, IVCD was larger in the hypertensive than in the normotensive patients before and after HD. These results confirm that extracellular fluid overload plays an important role in the pathogenesis of dialysis-associated hypertension. In group B, BV and IVCD decreased in parallel during HD and increased during 2 hours after HD due to refilling of the intravascular space, indicating that changes in IVCD reflect changes in BV. In 8 patients studied twice, IVCD increased much more after a 3-hour HD session than after a 6-hour session. At the end of HD, several patients had IVCD below the reference range but IVCD increased during the following 1 to 2 hours, in some patients to values above the reference range. IVCD measured at the end or shortly after HD may therefore be misleading in assessing dry weight.