Ultrasound examination was carried out in 55 patients undergoing renal biopsy for suspected renal parenchymal disease. Analysis of sonographic and histological findings showed statistically significant positive correlations between renal size and the extent of glomerular hyper-cellularity and crescent formation and between cortical echogenicity and severity of glomerular sclerosis, crescent formation, interstitial inflammatory cell infiltration, tubular atrophy and interstitial fibrosis. Positive correlation was also observed between prominence of the medullary pyramids and glomerular sclerosis. The most marked sonographic abnormalities were seen in proliferative (including crescentic) glomerulonephritis, diabetic glomerulosclerosis and tubulo-interstitial nephritis. IgA, membranous and minimal change nephropathy were less likely to be associated with sonographic abnormalities. We conclude that certain sonographic appearances in renal parenchymal disease reflect the presence and severity of light microscopical abnormalities but, although ultrasound assessment provides a high positive predictive value for renal parenchymal disease, specific conditions cannot be distinguished.