The hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a disease characterized by microangiopathic hemolytic anemia, thrombocytopenia, and renal failure. These features reflect the underlying histopathologic lesion: fibrin-rich thrombi that predominate in the renal microvasculature. HUS most commonly affects children younger than 5 years and is associated with Shiga toxin-producing enteric bacteria, the most important of which is Escherichia coli O157:H7. In this setting, HUS is epidemic and also might affect adults, particularly elderly people. Sporadic cases of HUS more commonly occur in adults and are associated with a wide variety of inciting agents and conditions. Although the disease manifestations might be similar and endothelial activation or injury likely represents a common etiologic event, differing responses to therapy suggest different pathogenic mechanisms. As more is understood about the underlying pathogenesis of the diseases that we now lump together as HUS, more efficacious and rational treatment and prevention strategies are likely to follow.