Applied anatomy and physiology of the kidney are briefly reviewed. This includes an account of renal blood flow, glomerular filtration rate, juxtaglomerular apparatus, renal autoregulation and intra-renal blood flow distribution, tubular transport mechanisms, solute handling in proximal tubule, function of loop of Henle and distal tubule system. This section concludes with a summary of changes in tubule fluid along the length of the nephron. Acute effects of anaesthesia are reviewed in detail. Indirect effects include those on circulatory and sympathetic nervous systems, autoregulation, endocrine systems such as those involving anti-diuretic hormone, adrenaline and noradrenaline, renin-angiotensin and aldosterone. Direct effects of anaesthesia on renal function have now been confirmed both in vitro and in vivo. Delayed direct nephrotoxicity of anaesthetics relates predominantly to methoxyflurane (MOF) and its metabolism to inorganic fluoride. Other factors are MOF dose, genetics, age, enzyme induction, obesity, other nephrotoxic drugs. Clinical implications are presented. Enflurane nephrotoxicity is rare but aetiologic factors are similar to the foregoing. Isoflurane and halothane are not nephrotoxic. A consideration of the influence of anaesthetic management on the incidence and severity of postoperative acute renal failure concludes the review.