Abstract Background The incidence of acute kidney injury (AKI) remains high after partial nephrectomy. Ischemia-reperfusion injury produced by renal hilum clamping during surgery might have contributed to the development of AKI. In this study we tested the hypothesis that goal-directed fluid and blood pressure management may reduce AKI in patients following partial nephrectomy. Methods This was a pilot randomized controlled trial. Adult patients who were scheduled to undergo partial nephrectomy were randomized into two groups. In the intervention group, goal-directed hemodynamic management was performed from renal hilum clamping until end of surgery; the target was to maintain stroke volume variation 95 mmHg with crystalloid fluids and infusion of dobutamine and/or norepinephrine. In the control group, hemodynamic management was performed according to routine practice. The primary outcome was the incidence of AKI within the first 3 postoperative days. Results From June 2016 to January 2017, 144 patients were enrolled and randomized (intervention group, n = 72; control group, n = 72). AKI developed in 12.5% of patients in the intervention group and in 20.8% of patients in the control group; the relative reduction of AKI was 39.9% in the intervention group but the difference was not statistically significant (relative risk 0.60, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.28–1.28; P = 0.180). No significant differences were found regarding AKI classification, change of estimated glomerular filtration rate over time, incidence of postoperative 30-day complications, postoperative length of hospital stay, as well as 30-day and 6-month mortality between the two groups. Conclusion For patients undergoing partial nephrectomy, goal-directed circulatory management during surgery reduced postoperative AKI by about 40%, although not significantly so. The trial was underpowered. Large sample size randomized trials are needed to confirm our results. Trial registration Clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT02803372 . Date of registration: June 6, 2016.