Background: Nonuremic patients with apparently normal memory and behavior, studied by means of cerebral computed tomography and found to have cerebral atrophy (CA), evidenced functional intellectual deficits when they underwent psychometric testing. The finding of CA has been repeatedly reported in limited case groups of uremic patients who also demonstrated functional intellectual deficits on the basis of the same tests. This retrospective study considered all diagnostic cerebral computed tomography scans done in our department between 1981 and 1998. Fifty-five uremic patients in conservative treatment (CT) and 111 patients in hemodialysis treatment (HT) were selected on the basis of the following two criteria: primary nephropathy as the cause of uremia and an age ≤55 years to exclude involutive brain changes occurring with age. Aims: The aims of the study were to determine the percent of uremic patients with CA, the characteristics of their CA (cortical or subcortical), and eventual associated morphological lesions. Results: CA was detected in 50.9% (cortical atrophy in 47.3% and subcortical atrophy in 3.6%) of the uremic patients in CT and in 77.5% of those in HT (cortical atrophy in 65.7% and subcortical atrophy in 7.7%). The average degree of CA was 0.872 in the patients in CT and 1.765 in the patients in HT. Thirty-four of the patients in the CT group and 46 in the HT group were hypertensive: these patients had a more severe degree of CA than the nonhypertensive subjects. In the CT group, the degree of CA in the hypertensive patients was 1.205 versus 0.428 for the nonhypertensive subjects. In the HT group, the degree of CA was 2.087 for the hypertensive patients versus 1.538 for the nonhypertensive patients. Of the overall population, 7.8% had ischemic lesions, 9.6% had endocranial calcifications, and 5.4% evidenced periventricular white matter hyperintensities. Conclusions: The high percent of CA found in young uremic patients increased in subjects in HT and, even more so in hypertensive patients. Vascular calcifications, focal ischemia and leukoaraiosis, well-known expressions of a chronic state of cerebrovascular insufficiency, were also found in HT patients; hypertension alone is a recognized accelerator of vascular damage. Thus, early and severe atherosclerosis and related hypoperfusion can be considered as the paramount causes of parenchymal cerebral damage in uremia.