Contrast-induced nephropathy (CIN) affects in-hospital, short- and long-term morbidity and mortality. It also leads to prolonged hospital stay and increased medical cost. Given the potential clinical severity of CIN, there has been considerable interest in the development of preventative strategies to reduce the risk of contrast-induced renal deterioration in at-risk populations. A number of pharmacologic and mechanical preventive measures have been attempted, but no method other than adequate periprocedural hydration has been conclusively successful. Since its introduction in 2000, N-acetylcysteine (NAC) has been widely investigated, albeit with conflicting findings for its nephroprotection capability in patients receiving contrast media procedures. However, there is still virtually no definitive evidence of effectiveness of NAC. Although the exact mechanism responsible for the protective action of NAC from renal function deterioration remains unclear, the antioxidant and vasodilatory properties of NAC have been suggested as the main mechanisms. This review summarizes the current status of NAC as a potential agent to prevent renal functional deterioration and its limitations.