The percentage of diameter stenosis of the internal carotid artery was estimated directly from color Doppler images obtained in both longitudinal and transverse planes and compared with the results of digital subtraction angiography in 49 patients (95 carotid arteries). Peak systolic velocity measurements were obtained by placing the sample volume in the highest-velocity flow stream with the angle-correction cursor parallel to the color-encoded lumen. Arterial stenoses were categorized on a grade 1-5 scale: 1 = 0-15%, 2 = 16-49%, 3 = 50-75%, 4 = 76-99%, and 5 = occlusion. Percent diameter stenosis could not be determined in 12 color Doppler flow imaging studies (13%) due to calcified plaque. Of the remaining 83 arteries evaluated by both techniques, the respective categories by color Doppler flow imaging/angiography were grade 1 (16/26), grade 2 (25/24), grade 3 (30/19), grade 4 (5/8), and grade 5 (7/6). Percent diameter stenosis determined by color Doppler flow imaging was greater than by angiography in 25% and less than by angiography in 4%. Peak systolic velocity measurements did not separate the hemodynamically insignificant (less than 50% diameter stenosis) grade 1 and grade 2 lesions, but were in agreement in 86% of grades 3-5 stenotic categories, as determined by measurements from the color Doppler flow image. A direct measurement of percent diameter stenosis from the color Doppler flow image was possible in 87% of cases. Peak systolic velocity provided correlative diagnostic information when assessing hemodynamically significant lesions.