Despite several decades of clinical experience, the mortality rate for patients with acute renal failure (ARF) requiring dialysis remains high, and the evaluation of the patients prognosis has been difficult. To date, the Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II (APACHE II) scoring system has been used more frequently for prediction in studies of ARF than any other scoring system, but has not been prospectively validated in controlled multicenter studies of this entity. In a multicenter, prospective, controlled trial evaluating the use of biocompatible hemodialysis membranes (BCMs) in patients with ARF, we evaluated the extent to which the APACHE II scoring system, based on the physiological variables in the 24 hours before the onset of dialysis and the presence or absence of oliguria, is predictive of outcome. Analysis of survival and recovery of renal function for the 153 patients treated in this study show that APACHE II scores are predictive both of survival and recovery of renal function, whether analyzed separately by type of dialysis membrane used (BCM or bioincompatible [BICM]) or for both groups combined (all P < 0.01). There was no evidence of a significant center effect or interaction of APACHE II score with dialysis membrane in our study. After adjusting for the APACHE II score, there was a positive effect of the BCM on both probability of survival (P < 0.05) and recovery of renal function (P < 0.01). In patients dialyzed with BCMs, oliguria at onset of dialysis had an adverse effect on both survival and recovery of renal function (both P < 0.01). Receiver operator curves (ROCs) using APACHE II score and the use of BCMs in nonoliguric patients yielded a statistically significant improvement versus the use of APACHE II score alone in the area under the curve (AUC) for survival (0.747 to 0.801; P < 0.05) and recovery of renal function (0.712 to 0.775; P < 0.05). We conclude that the use of the APACHE II score determined at the time of initiation of dialysis for patients with ARF is a statistically significant predictor of patient survival and recovery of renal function. The use of the APACHE II score measured at the time of dialysis initiation, especially when modified by the presence or absence of oliguria, should help in predicting outcome when evaluating interventions for patients with ARF.