Transabdominal ultrasound is frequently used to detect complications of inflammatory bowel disease. It has been proposed that ultrasound can distinguish between ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease based on the degree of thickening and changes in the layered structure of the intestine. The authors evaluated the ability of ultrasound to distinguish between ulcerative colitis, Crohn's colitis, and normal colon by blindly comparing images made of resected colon specimens. The histologic interpretation of precisely the same area of tissue that was imaged was compared with the blinded image interpretation. Images from all 18 colitis specimens were correctly interpreted as being abnormal because of increased submucosal and overall wall thickness. Published ultrasound criteria for distinguishing between Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis based on overall wall thickness and indistinctness of layers were inaccurate in 4 of 15 specimens and indeterminate in 3 cases. Ultrasound appears to be accurate in distinguishing normal from inflamed colon, but ultrasound findings alone should not be used to determine the cause of bowel inflammation.