BACKGROUND: Both end-stage and milder stages of chronic kidney disease (CKD) are associated with an increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events. Several studies found an association between decreasing renal function and increasing coronary artery calcification, but it remains unclear if this association is independent from traditional cardiovascular risk factors. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate whether mild to moderate CKD is independently associated with coronary plaque burden beyond traditional cardiovascular risk factors. METHODS: A total of 2,038 patients with symptoms of chest discomfort suspected for coronary artery disease underwent coronary CT-angiography. We assessed traditional risk factors, coronary calcium score and coronary plaque characteristics (morphology and degree of luminal stenosis). Patients were subdivided in three groups, based on their estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) Normal renal function (eGFR >/=90 mL/min/1.73 m(2)); mild CKD (eGFR 60-89 mL/min/1.73 m(2)); and moderate CKD (eGFR 30-59 mL/min/1.73 m(2)). RESULTS: Coronary calcium score increased significantly with decreasing renal function (P<0.001). Coronary plaque prevalence was higher in patients with mild CKD (OR 1.83, 95%CI 1.52-2.21) and moderate CKD (OR 2.46, 95%CI 1.69-3.59), compared to patients with normal renal function (both P<0.001). Coronary plaques with >70% luminal stenosis were found significantly more often in patients with mild CKD (OR 1.67 (95%CI 1.16-2.40) and moderate CKD (OR2.36, 95%CI 1.35-4.13), compared to patients with normal renal function (both P<0.01). After adjustment for traditional cardiovascular risk factors, the association between renal function and the presence of any coronary plaque as well as the association between renal function and the presence of coronary plaques with >70% luminal stenosis becomes weaker and were no longer statistically significant. CONCLUSION: Although decreasing renal function is associated with increasing extent and severity of coronary artery disease, mild to moderately CKD is not independently associated with coronary plaque burden after adjustment for traditional cardiovascular risk factors.