Data acquired prospectively from 134 patients with acute renal failure requiring dialysis in a medical intensive care unit (ICU) were analysed in order to derive indicators predicting ICU-survival Mortality in the ICU was 56.7%. Linear discriminant analysis correctly predicted outcome in 79.9% at the start of dialysis, and 84.7% at 48 h after the first dialysis. The most important predictive variables were mechanical ventilation and low blood pressure. On the other hand, the total correct classification rates achieved by a standardised system for scoring ICU-patients (APACHE II) did not exceed 58.2%. It is concluded that outcome prediction by APACHE II and even by the discriminant functions is too inaccurate to become the basis for clinical decisions either concerning the initiation or the continuation of dialysis treatment in ARF.