The effects of mannitol on renal impairment following infrarenal aortic aneurysm repair were studied. Patients received either mannitol 0.3 g/kg (n = 15) or saline (n = 13) as a rapid intravenous infusion before aortic cross-clamping. One patient in the control group developed fatal postoperative renal failure but there was no renal failure in the mannitol group. Two patients treated with mannitol died from perioperative myocardial infarction. There were no significant differences in postoperative blood urea level, serum creatinine concentration or creatinine clearance between mannitol and control groups. In patients who had mannitol there was a significant diuresis on the first day after operation (mean urine output 2250 ml) compared with before operation (1557 ml) (P = 0.007). Compared with controls, patients treated with mannitol had lower mean (s.e.m.) postoperative levels of urinary albumin (160(32) versus 500(140) mg per mmol creatinine; P = 0.036) and N-acetyl glucosaminidase (143(34) versus 271(70) mumol per mmol creatinine; P = 0.04) indicating a reduced level of subclinical glomerular and renal tubular damage. These data demonstrate that mannitol reduces subclinical renal injury following infrarenal aortic aneurysm repair.