The object of this study was to investigate the fetal renal arterial blood flow in normal and hyperechogenic kidneys during the third trimester of gestation. The pregnancies screened were all chronically hypoxic. Depending on the etiology of the intrauterine chronic hypoxia, the cases were divided into two study groups. Group I comprised 120 pregnant women with pregnancy-associated hypertension and/or proteinuria. Group II consisted of 87 pregnancies with intrauterine growth retardation. Both study groups included pregnant women from the third trimester. Hyperechogenic renal medullae were detected in 15 out of 120 cases with pregnancy-associated hypertension and/or proteinuria, and in 22 fetuses of the 87 pregnancies involving intrauterine growth retardation. Fetal renal hyperechogenicity appears to be an indicator of fetal arterial circulatory depression, correlated with pathological changes in the resistance index for the fetal renal arteries. The fetal renal arterial blood flow resistance index was significantly lower in hyperechogenic cases. This may also be an in utero indication of subsequent intrauterine and neonatal complications, such as cesarean section because of fetal distress (43%), treatment in a neonatal intensive care unit (51%) or increased perinatal mortality (5.4%, as compared with 0.8-1.0% in the normal population). Detailed ultrasound and Doppler examinations of renal parenchyma and arteries appear to be useful methods in the prenatal diagnosis of reduced renal perfusion and of intrauterine hypoxia to detect possible pathological fetal conditions in utero.