It is generally believed that infants are more susceptible to development of renal scarring after pyelonephritis than children over 5 years old. This view has led to differences in investigations and treatment according to age. The aim of this prospective study was to assess the occurrence of renal parenchymal lesion in children over 5 years admitted with a first-time symptomatic urinary tract infection (UTI). Between October 2000 and April 2002, 52 children aged over 5 years who were admitted to our department with probable acute pyelonephritis (APN) and a positive urine culture were included in this study. All children received antibiotics for 14 days. During the acute phase of infection, scintigraphy with technetium-99m-labeled dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) and ultrasonography (US) were done. Voiding cystourethrography (VCUG) was performed in all children early in the course of the illness, generally within 5-7 days of hospitalization. When scintigraphy showed renal parenchymal changes, repeat scintigraphy was done after at least 3 months to assess the progression of renal abnormalities. Of the 52 children with a first-time documented pyelonephritis, cortical scintigraphy showed renal lesion in 41 children (78.8%). US was normal in all children with normal renal scintigraphy, while it detected renal abnormalities in 16 of the 41 (39 %) with abnormal scintigraphy (p <0.0001). Topographic analysis of the 165 focal lesions showed that 42.4% were localized to the upper poles, 17.5% to the middle third, and 40% to the lower poles of the kidneys. Repeat scintigraphy showed persistent lesions corresponding to those on the initial scan in nine (28.2%) of the 32 children. Renal lesions had partly regressed in 23 (71.8%) of the patients who underwent repeat scintigraphy. Vesicoureteral reflux was observed in 13.4% of kidneys and renal parenchymal abnormalities were identified in 71.4% and 72.2% of renal units, respectively, with and without reflux ( p >0.05). In conclusion, our data did not confirm the conventional opinion that the risk of renal scarring after pyelonephritis is low in children over the age of 5 years. Our findings suggest that renal scintigraphy may be a more appropriate method of investigation than VCUG for evaluation of the children over 5 years with acute pyelonephritis. Additionally, the frequency of scintigraphic changes is high, and a strategy based exclusively on ultrasound findings would miss about 61% of the abnormal renal units. We recommend that all children, irrespective of age, will benefit from further investigations that might prevent or limit the development of scarring process and renal complications.