We studied the parathyroid function in patients with advanced renal failure by determining their plasma concentrations of ionized calcium (iCa), intact parathyroid hormone (PTH) and its inactive metabolites (PTH-MM). The suppressibility of the parathyroidism was studied with a calcium infusion test. The intact PTH values of the nondialysis and dialysis patients did not statistically differ from each other. The concentrations of PTH-MM were, however, higher in the dialysis patients than in the nondialysis patients (p < 0.05). The ratio of PTH-MM to intact PTH was lowest in healthy reference subjects and highest in dialysis patients (p < 0.01), and did not correlate with the degree of intact PTH elevation in the patient groups. The calcium infusion test was carried out on 15 patients. All showed suppression in the elevated plasma intact PTH concentration and in 6 the intact PTH value normalized. The PTH-MM value did not normalize in any of the patients. During oral calcium treatment the degree of intact PTH suppression at an achieved concentration of plasma iCa was predictable from the infusion test. Three patients were parathyroidectomized after the calcium infusion test. In 2 of these elevated intact PTH normalized within 24 h while in 1 no change took place. In this latter case no clinical improvement was noted. We conclude that the determination of plasma intact PTH concentration especially if combined with plasma iCa value is a reliable means of studying the hyperparathyroidism associated with chronic renal failure.