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Acute renal failure (ARF) is a devastating complication in critically ill patients. There is a paucity of data that describes the impact of ARF on the outcome of trauma patients admitted to the intensive care unit.We studied trauma patients admitted to the surgical intensive care unit to determine the effect of increases in serum creatinine on the number of ventilator days, length of stay, mortality, and cost. We used the administrative database of the hospital and the trauma registry. Renal failure (RF) was defined as one or more of the following: creatinine >1.5 mg/dL, increase in creatinine of >50%, or increase of creatinine by 0.5 mg/dL.We obtained data on 1,033 patients. Two hundred and forty-six (23.8%) patients met at least one criterion for RF. Only 25 of these patients had one or more episodes of renal replacement therapy. The RF group had mortality of 24.4% compared with 2.3% in the no renal failure group (p < 0.0001). For each 1 mg/dL increase from the initial creatinine, length of stay increased by 2.21 days, ventilator days increased by 1.09 days, and the mortality risk increased by 1.83 times (CI, 1.47–2.29; p < 0.0001). For any diagnosis of renal dysfunction, the average cost increase was $3,088.00 and increased mortality risk was 7.19 times (CI, 4.11–12.58).Vigilance in preventing creatinine increases and ameliorating or removing potential causes should occur as soon as creatinine begins to rise to avoid worsening renal function, to reduce cost, and to improve patient outcome.