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Continuous venovenous hemofiltration (CVVH) is applied in critically ill patients with acute renal failure for renal replacement. Heparins used to prevent circuit clotting may cause bleeding. Regional anticoagulation with citrate reduces bleeding, but has metabolic risks. The aim was to compare the safety and efficacy of the two.Randomized, nonblinded, controlled single-center trial.General intensive care unit of a teaching hospital.Adult critically ill patients needing CVVH for acute renal failure and without an increased bleeding risk.Regional anticoagulation with citrate or systemic anticoagulation with the low-molecular weight heparin nadroparin.End points were adverse events necessitating discontinuation of study anticoagulant, transfusion, metabolic and clinical outcomes, and circuit survival. Of the 215 randomized patients, 200 received CVVH per protocol (97 citrate and 103 nadroparin). Adverse events required discontinuation of citrate in two patients (accumulation and clotting) of nadroparin in 20 (bleeding and thrombocytopenia) (p < 0.001). Bleeding occurred in 6 vs. 16 patients (p = 0.08). The median number of red blood cell units transfused per CVVH day was 0.27 (interquartile range, 0.0–0.63) for citrate, 0.36 (interquartile range, 0–0.83) for nadroparin (p = 0.31). Citrate conferred less metabolic alkalosis (p = 0.001) and lower plasma calcium (p < 0.001). Circuit survival was similar. Three-month mortality on intention-to-treat was 48% (citrate) and 63% (nadroparin) (p = 0.03), per protocol 45% and 62% (p = 0.02). Citrate reduced mortality in surgical patients (p = 0.007), sepsis (p = 0.01), higher Sepsis-Related Organ Failure Assessment score (p = 0.006), and lower age (p = 0.009).The efficacy of citrate and nadroparin anticoagulation for CVVH was similar, however, citrate was safer. Unexpectedly, citrate reduced mortality. Less bleeding could only partly explain this benefit, less clotting could not. Post hoc citrate appeared particularly beneficial after surgery, in sepsis and severe multiple organ failure, suggesting interference with inflammation.