Hemodynamic studies were performed at two levels of dietary sodium intake (10 mmoles/day and 100 mmoles/day for 14 days) in a group of patients (with retained kidneys) on chronic hemodialysis. Plasma renin activity and aldosterone, plasma and extracellular fluid (ECF) volumes were measured while the patients were at rest. Cardiac output, mean intraarterial pressure, and the calculated total peripheral resistance index were recorded while the patients were at rest and during acute 'total' autonomic blockade. On the sodium diet of 10 mmoles/day, normotensive and hypertensive patients had similarly low total blood volumes, low-normal ECF volumes, and similar levels of plasma renin and aldosterone. The resting cardiac output was increased in both groups, but the total peripheral resistance was increased only in the patients with hypertension, in whom peripheral resistance was inappropriately high for the degree of anemia. Six hypertensive patients were studied on both diets. The resting mean arterial pressure was greater on the sodium diet of 100 mmoles/day than on the 10 mmoles/day diet, accompanied by increases in plasma volume, extracellular fluid volume, and cardiac output, but no change in peripheral resistance. During autonomic blockade on either diet, there was a marked fall in blood pressure in the patients with hypertension. This was mainly due to a fall in peripheral resistance which reached levels similar to those seen in the normotensive patients whose resistance was unaltered by blockade. Autonomic factors appear to contribute to the elevated peripheral resistance of hypertensive dialysis patients. In these patients, the effect of a high sodium diet, at least over the time-scale studied here, is to increase blood pressure and cardiac output, without the change in peripheral resistance expected from autoregulation.