Urethral pressure profilometry is commonly used as a diagnostic test for stress urinary incontinence. The objective of this article is to review the published literature on urethral pressure profilometry to summarize its usefulness. MEDLINE was used to search the published English literature from 1966 to October 2000 for full-length original research articles on urethral pressure profilometry and stress urinary incontinence in women. Terms related to urethral pressure profilometry are defined consistently but techniques are not standardized, introducing variation in test results. Reproducibility of urethral pressure profilometry parameters is poor, both because of biological variation and variation within the test procedure itself (related in part to lack of standardization). Parameters of urethral pressure profilometry do not distinguish between continent and incontinent women and do not characterize the severity of incontinence or urethral incompetence. It is, therefore, concluded that urethral pressure profilometry is not a useful diagnostic test for stress urinary incontinence in women. Its use in clinical management is not supported by current evidence.