The increased knowledge of the natural history of cystic echinococcosis (CE) by the recent expansion in the use of ultrasound (US) in field and clinical studies has necessitated the development of a new WHO standardised classification of US images. Use of such a classification will enable clinicians to examine recommended clinical procedures for the different cyst types. It will also allow scientists to compare data on the occurrence of cyst types in different parts of the world providing evidence to examine strain differences in the causative organism Echinococcus granulosus. The classification proposed follows that of the first classification developed by Gharbi et al. [Radiology 139 (1981) 459] which has been widely used, but in modified forms, since its publication. The classification presented here is intended for use in field epidemiological studies as well as for clinical investigators. The classification is intended to follow the natural history of CE and starts with undifferentiated simple cysts, as presumably hydatid cysts evolve from these structures. These simple cysts, however, may be due to a number of different aetiologies (parasitic lesions, congenital disorders, biliary cysts or neoplasms) and, therefore, require further diagnostic tests to reveal their identity. As their origin is uncertain they are not given the designation of a CE type lesion, and, in the proposed classification, should be recorded as cystic lesions (CL). The first clinical group starts with cyst types CE 1 and 2 and such cysts are active, usually fertile cysts containing viable protoscoleces. CE Type 3 are cysts entering a transitional stage where the integrity of the cyst has been compromised either by the host or by chemotherapy and this transitional stage is assigned to the second clinical group. The third clinical group comprises CE Types 4 and 5 which are inactive cysts which have normally lost their fertility and are degenerative. The use of the standardised US classification will facilitate the application of uniform standards and principles of treatment currently recommended for each cyst type.