The amount of functioning renal parenchyma can be estimated by MRI by considering the ratio between the mean intensities of cortical and medullar zones of the kidney. Fifty-six patients and 5 healthy volunteers were studied by MRI in our department. Scanning was performed with a superconductive magnet system operating at 0.5 Tesla. Pulse sequence was Spin-Echo with TR 300/TE 30 ms. The cortimedullary ratio (CMR) and differentiation (CMD) were standardized and related with creatine blood levels. CMR data ranged from 1.05 to 3.00, while CMD data ranged from 0.04 to 0.50. High values (good cortico-medullary contrast) were observed in subjects with normal renal function. Patients with renal diseases had low CMR and CMD, proportionally to the degree of renal failure, as proved by laboratory findings. Our preliminary study seems to demonstrate that MRI is an useful technique in the follow-up of patients with chronic renal disease. 19 refs.