OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to examine whether kidney dysfunction is associated with the type of clinical presentation of coronary heart disease (CHD). BACKGROUND: Reduced kidney function increases the risk for developing CHD, but it is not known whether it also influences the acuity of clinical presentation, which has important prognostic implications. METHODS: A case-control study was conducted of subjects whose first clinical presentation of CHD was either acute myocardial infarction or stable exertional angina between October 2001 and December 2003. Estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) before the incident event was calculated using calibrated serum creatinine and the abbreviated MDRD (Modification of Diet in Renal Disease) equation. Patient characteristics and use of medications were ascertained from self-report and health plan databases. Multivariable logistic regression was used to examine the association of reduced eGFR and CHD presentation. RESULTS: A total of 803 adults with incident acute myocardial infarctions and 419 adults with incident stable exertional angina who had baseline eGFRs =130 ml/min/1.73 m(2) were studied. Mean eGFR was lower in subjects with acute myocardial infarctions compared with those with stable angina. Compared with eGFR of 90 to 130 ml/min/1.73 m(2), a strong, graded, independent association was found between reduced eGFR and presenting with acute myocardial infarction, with adjusted odds ratios of 1.36 (95% confidence interval: 0.99 to 1.86) for eGFR 60 to 89 ml/min/1.73 m(2), 1.55 (95% confidence interval: 0.92 to 2.62) for eGFR 45 to 59 ml/min/1.73 m(2), and 3.82 (95% confidence interval: 1.55 to 9.46) for eGFR <45 ml/min/1.73 m(2) (p < 0.001 for trend). CONCLUSIONS: An eGFR <45 ml/min/1.73 m(2) is a strong, independent predictor of presenting with acute myocardial infarction versus stable angina as the initial manifestation of CHD.