This study was undertaken to assess the significance of diastolic flow reversal seen on duplex Doppler sonograms of patients with renal transplant dysfunction. Earlier studies have evaluated the causes of increased vascular resistance in renal transplants. None, however, had investigated specifically the subset of patients in whom impedance in the renal microcirculation has increased to the degree that retrograde arterial flow is present. In our series, 533 consecutive scans in 270 patients were reviewed. The patients were referred for evaluation of renal transplant dysfunction during a 25-month period. Doppler samples were obtained from main, segmental, and, when possible, arcuate arteries. An episode of reversed diastolic flow was identified in nine patients. Correlation was made with clinical, laboratory, histologic (biopsy in six patients, nephrectomy in three patients), and imaging studies (DTPA scintigraphy in seven patients, angiography in one patient). On the basis of histologic and nephrectomy results, we determined that among the nine patients, four had acute tubular necrosis, three had acute rejection, and two had renal vein thrombosis. One of these patients had both severe rejection and renal vein thrombosis. One additional patient had neither biopsy nor nephrectomy and was not included in the diagnostic groups listed here. Our study suggests that reversed diastolic flow is not specific for either acute rejection or acute tubular necrosis. Reversal of diastolic flow, however, is a poor prognostic sign; nephrectomy was imminent in three of the nine patients. Furthermore, two (22%) patients had renal vein thrombosis, whereas renal vein thrombosis was not found in any of the 261 patients without reversed diastolic flow. Duplex Doppler examinations with reversed diastolic flow should suggest renal vein thrombosis.