A mechanical sector and linear array real-time scanner combined with a pulsed Doppler system was used for recording the flow velocity waveform in the internal carotid artery, the lower thoracic part of the descending aorta and umbilical artery in the human fetus. A total of 42 fetuses in normal pregnancy and nine growth-retarded fetuses between 26 and 41 weeks gestation was studied. In normal pregnancy the mean pulsatility index (PI) in the internal carotid artery varied between 1.5 and 1.6, in the descending aorta between 1.7 and 1.8 and in the umbilical artery between 0.7 and 1.3. In the growth-retarded fetuses the PI was reduced in the internal carotid artery and raised in the descending aorta and umbilical artery, suggesting an increased peripheral vascular resistance in the fetal body and placenta and a compensatory reduction in peripheral vascular resistance in the fetal cerebrum, i.e. a brain-sparing effect in the presence of fetal hypoxia.