Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) images obtained after unilateral ligation of the ureter, renal artery, or renal vein in the rat were analyzed and compared with NMR images of the normal rat kidney. Anatomic and functional correlation of the induced renal lesions was made by concurrent CT and by gross examination of the excised kidneys. Many normal anatomic structures at the level of the renal hilum can be identified by high resolution NMR imaging. Differentiation of urine from renal parenchyma permits detection of gross change both in renal function and in the mass of the renal parenchyma. NMR imaging is capable of diagnosing hydronephrosis, acute renal ischemia, and acute venous congestion in this rat model. In addition, a trend toward prolongation of the relaxation times T1 and T2 for abnormal renal parenchyma is demonstrated.