BACKGROUND: Cardiac mortality is the main cause of death in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). In this study, we sought the efficacy of long-term intensive lipid level lowering on atherosclerotic burden in patients with CKD. METHODS: Patients with CKD (n = 38; age, 64 +/- 11 years) and a similar group of patients with coronary artery disease (CAD; n = 31) were treated prospectively with atorvastatin, up to 80 mg/d. Lipid profile, carotid intima-media thickness (IMT; a marker of atherosclerotic burden), and dobutamine echocardiography were measured at baseline and 2 years. Predictors of change in maximal IMT were sought in a linear model. RESULTS: Despite similar cholesterol level lowering, patients with CAD showed an improvement in maximum IMT, whereas those with CKD did not (mean between-group difference, 0.07 mm; 95% confidence interval, 0.01 to 0.12). Change in maximal IMT was associated with kidney disease (R2 = 0.09; P = 0.013), smoking (R2 = 0.083; P = 0.017), baseline low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) level (R2 = 0.064; P = 0.045), very low density cholesterol (VLDL-C) level (R2 = 0.084; P = 0.021), and calcium channel blocker use (R2 = 0.094; P = 0.01). In a multivariate model, kidney disease and baseline LDL-C and VLDL-C levels remained independent predictors of change in maximal IMT (model R2 = 0.24; P = 0.004). Only patients with CAD decreased their number of ischemic segments (2.5 +/- 1.4 to 1.2 +/- 1.5 segments; P = 0.002). Overall change in ischemic segment number correlated with change in maximal IMT (r = 0.32; P = 0.019). CONCLUSION: Patients with CKD undergoing intensive lipid level lowering do not show the same changes in atherosclerotic or ischemic burden as patients with CAD. Independent predictors of change in maximal IMT were CKD and baseline LDL-C and VLDL-C levels.