Objectives: To investigate the epidemiology, diagnosis and prognosis of acute renal failure (ARF) in hospitalized Chinese during the last decade. Methods: The diagnosis of patients with ARF in Peking University Third Hospital from January 1994 to December 2003 was reconfirmed and the data of epidemiology, etiology and prognosis were analyzed. Results: Only 209 discharged cases were diagnosed with ARF and all were reconfirmed. Two peak occurrences were found at ages of 35–45 and 60–80 with a male predominance of approximately 59.7%. Patients diagnosed with ARF accounted for 1.19‰ of the admissions in the same period and increased significantly in the last 5 years (p = 0.038). The creatinine level at diagnosis was 345.8 ± 122.6 µmol/l and had no significant change (p > 0.05). The percent of hospital-acquired ARF (HA-ARF) demonstrated a significant increase in 1999–2003 compared to 1994–1998 (p = 0.008). Intrarenal ARF accounted for 73.69% and was multifactorial, with drugs, infections and operations as leading causes. Renal biopsy was performed in 37.32% (78/209) with 53.84% (42/78) having acute interstitial nephritis. Maintenance dialysis was discontinued in 46.41% because their renal function completely or partially recovered. The overall mortality was 37.91% without improvement over time. The mortality was 6.25% for patients in nephrology department, but 65.51% in ICU (p < 0.001), and was 21.6% for patients in community-acquired ARF (CA-ARF), but 63.1% in HA-ARF (p < 0.001). Conclusions: During the past 10 years, the number of patients diagnosed with ARF has been rising in hospitalized Chinese. HA-ARF was the major source, and infections, drugs and operations were the leading causes. The diagnosis and prognosis of acute renal failure did not improve much in this population over the decade studied.