Transrectal prostatic ultrasonography is a potentially valuable means to evaluate the prostate of men with suspected carcinoma. We studied 118 patients with this modality before histological evaluation of the prostate (20 underwent radical prostatectomy, 75 core needle biopsy and aspiration cytology, and 23 transurethral resection of the prostate). Transrectal ultrasonography was more efficient than digital rectal examination in the staging of carcinoma of the prostate before radical prostatectomy. The value of transrectal ultrasonography in the diagnosis of prostatic cancer in men with an abnormal-feeling prostate on digital rectal examination is less certain, since 10 of 75 patients (13 per cent) in this group had a falsely positive scan. The predictive value of a scan positive for malignancy was 37 per cent. Further refinements in the technique of transrectal prostatic ultrasonography are needed to realize fully the diagnostic potential of this imaging modality.