purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the sensitivity, specificity, and clinical usefulness of renography performed in combination with captopril administration ("captopril renography") in diagnosing renal artery stenosis. patients and methods: Fifty-five patients with suspected renal artery stenosis underwent renography prior to performance of renal angiography. Renography was performed on two consecutive days using technetium-99m-diethylenetiamine pentaacetic acid (DTPA) as an index of glomerular filtration rate and iodine-131orthoiodohippurate (OIH) as an index of renal blood flow. Captopril (25 mg orally, crushed) was administered 1 hour before the second study. Renal artery stenosis was defined as a stenosis exceeding 70%. Renographic criteria were then established, retrospectively, to differentiate renal artery stenosis from essential hypertension based on (1) asymmetry of function and (2) the presence of captopril-induced changes. results: Renal artery stenosis was detected in 35 of 55 patients (21 with unilateral and 14 with bilateral stenosis). Three criteria were established for diagnosing renal artery stenosis: (1) a percent uptake of DTPA by the affected kidney of less than 40% of the combined bilateral uptake, (2) a delayed time to peak uptake of DTPA, which was more than 5 minutes longer in the affected kidney than in the contralateral kidney, (3) a delayed excretion of DTPA, with retention at 15 minutes, as a fraction of peak activity, more than 20% greater than in the contralateral kidney. The presence of one or more of these criteria was diagnostic of renal artery stenosis, with a sensitivity and specificity of 71% and 75%, respectively before captopril administration, and 94% and 95% after captopril administration. Lesser degrees of asymmetry (i.e., uptake of 40% to 50%) had very poor diagnostic specificity. Among patients with bilateral, stenoses, asymmetry identified the more severely affected kidney, but the presence or absence of stenosis in the contralateral kidney could not be reliably determined. When pre- and post-captopril studies were compared, the presence of captopril-induced scintigraphic changes was a highly specific finding for renal artery stenosis, but occurred in only 51% of the cases. OIH scintigraphy provided similar results, with slightly lower sensitivity and specificity. conclusion: Asymmetry of DTPA uptake, time to peak uptake, or retention seen on a single post-captopril renogram is a highly sensitive and specific finding in detecting renal artery stenosis but does not distinguish unilateral from bilateral disease. If renograms are obtained both before and after captopril administration, the presence of captopril-induced change is a highly specific finding for the detection of renal artery stenosis, but the sensitivity of this finding is low.