Recently, well performing diagnostic criteria for analgesic nephropathy in end-stage renal failure (ESRF) patients were defined by the demonstration of a bilateral decrease in renal volume combined with either bumpy contours or papillary calcifications. In this study, the diagnostic value of computed tomography (CT) scan was compared to the previously used renal imaging techniques (sonography and conventional tomography). In a first study, a cohort of 40 analgesic abusers (defined as daily use of analgesic mixtures during at least 5 years) and 40 controls, all ESRF patients without a clear renal diagnosis, were investigated with sonography, tomography and CT scan without injection of iodinated contrast material, to search for the imaging signs of analgesic nephropathy. Using CT scan, sonography and tomography, renal size could be evaluated with comparable results while CT scan was superior in the detection of papillary calcifications (sensitivity 87%, specificity 97%). In a second controlled study of 53 analgesic abusers with a serum creatinine between 1.5 to 4 mg/dl in the absence of a clear renal diagnosis, a CT scan was performed and scored for the presence of decreased renal volume, bumpy contours and papillary calcifications. It was found that the renal image of analgesic nephropathy on CT scan in an early stage of renal failure is comparable with the observations made in ESRF patients. Particularly the demonstration of papillary calcifications showed a high sensitivity of 92% with a specificity of 100% for the early diagnosis of analgesic nephropathy.