- BACKGROUND: Some studies but not others suggest angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor (ACEi) or angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) use prior to major surgery associates with a higher risk of postoperative acute kidney injury (AKI) and death. METHODS: We conducted a large population-based retrospective cohort study of patients aged 66 years or older who received major elective surgery in 118 hospitals in Ontario, Canada from 1995 to 2010 (n = 237,208). We grouped the cohort into ACEi/ARB users (n = 101,494) and non-users (n = 135,714) according to whether the patient filled at least one prescription for an ACEi or ARB (or not) in the 120 days prior to surgery. Our study outcomes were acute kidney injury treated with dialysis (AKI-D) within 14 days of surgery and all-cause mortality within 90 days of surgery. RESULTS: After adjusting for potential confounders, preoperative ACEi/ARB use versus non-use was associated with 17% lower risk of post-operative AKI-D (adjusted relative risk (RR): 0.83; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.71 to 0.98) and 9% lower risk of all-cause mortality (adjusted RR: 0.91; 95% CI: 0.87 to 0.95). Propensity score matched analyses provided similar results. The association between ACEi/ARB and AKI-D was significantly modified by the presence of preoperative chronic kidney disease (CKD) (P value for interaction < 0.001) with the observed association evident only in patients with CKD (CKD - adjusted RR: 0.62; 95% CI: 0.50 to 0.78 versus No CKD: adjusted RR: 1.00; 95% CI: 0.81 to 1.24). CONCLUSIONS: In this cohort study, preoperative ACEi/ARB use versus non-use was associated with a lower risk of AKI-D, and the association was primarily evident in patients with CKD. Large, multi-centre randomized trials are needed to inform optimal ACEi/ARB use in the peri-operative setting.