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Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a common and serious complication for pediatric cardiac surgery patients associated with increased morbidity, mortality, and length of stay. Current strategies focus on risk reduction and early identification because there are no known preventive or therapeutic agents. Cardiac surgery and cardiopulmonary bypass lyse erythrocytes, releasing free hemoglobin and contributing to oxidative injury. Acetaminophen may prevent AKI by reducing the oxidation state of free hemoglobin.To test the hypothesis that early postoperative acetaminophen exposure is associated with reduced risk of AKI in pediatric patients undergoing cardiac surgery.In this retrospective cohort study, the setting was 2 tertiary referral children’s hospitals. The primary and validation cohorts included children older than 28 days admitted for cardiac surgery between July 1, 2008, and June 1, 2016. Exclusion criteria were postoperative extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and inadequate serum creatinine measurements to determine AKI status.Acetaminophen exposure in the first 48 postoperative hours.Acute kidney injury based on Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes serum creatinine criteria (increase by ≥0.3 mg/dL from baseline or at least 1.5-fold more than the baseline [to convert to micromoles per liter, multiply by 88.4]) in the first postoperative week.The primary cohort (n = 666) had a median age of 6.5 (interquartile range [IQR], 3.9-44.7) months, and 341 (51.2%) had AKI. In unadjusted analyses, those with AKI had lower median acetaminophen doses than those without AKI (47 [IQR, 16-88] vs 78 [IQR, 43-104] mg/kg, P < .001). In logistic regression analysis adjusting for age, cardiopulmonary bypass time, red blood cell distribution width, postoperative hypotension, nephrotoxin exposure, and Risk Adjustment for Congenital Heart Surgery score, acetaminophen exposure was protective against postoperative AKI (odds ratio, 0.86 [95% CI, 0.82-0.90] per each additional 10 mg/kg). Findings were replicated in the validation cohort (n = 333), who had a median age of 14.1 (IQR, 3.9-158.2) months, and 162 (48.6%) had AKI. Acetaminophen doses were 60 (95% CI, 40-87) mg/kg in those with AKI vs 70 (95% CI, 45-94) mg/kg in those without AKI (P = .03), with an adjusted odds ratio of 0.91 (95% CI, 0.84-0.99) for each additional 10 mg/kg.These results indicate that early postoperative acetaminophen exposure may be associated with a lower rate of AKI in pediatric patients who undergo cardiac surgery. Further analysis to validate these findings, potentially through a prospective, randomized trial, may establish acetaminophen as a preventive agent for AKI.