Patients with acute renal failure (ARF) experience a high mortality rate. Dysregulated inflammation and altered metabolism may increase oxidative stress in ARF patients. Thirty-eight patients who met the Program to Improve Care in Acute Renal Disease (PICARD) Study inclusion criteria underwent plasma protein oxidation and plasma cytokine measurements. For comparison, similar measurements were also performed in 21 critically ill patients without ARF, 28 patients with ESRD, and 49 healthy subjects. Plasma protein thiol oxidation was measured by spectrophotometry. Plasma protein carbonyl content and cytokine concentrations were measured by ELISA. Plasma protein thiol oxidation and carbonyl content were markedly different in ARF patients compared with healthy subjects, ESRD patients, and critically ill patients (P < 0.001 in all cases). There were significant but less marked differences in plasma protein oxidation between ESRD patients and critically ill patients compared with healthy subjects. Plasma protein thiol oxidation in ARF patients improved with dialysis (P < 0.001); however, there was significant plasma oxidant reaccumulation during the interdialytic period (P < 0.001) not due to rebound equilibration of compartmentalized solutes. Plasma proinflammatory cytokine levels were significantly higher (P < 0.05) in ARF patients and critically ill patients than in healthy subjects. Plasma protein oxidation is markedly increased in ARF patients compared with healthy subjects, ESRD patients, and critically ill patients. Increased oxidative stress may be an important target for nutritional and pharmacologic therapy in ARF patients.