Between May 1,1986 and May 31, 1992 at the University of Minnesota, we interpreted 129 renal allograft biopsy specimens (done in 48 grafts during the first 6 months posttransplant) as showing changes consistent with chronic rejection. For this retrospective analysis, we reexamined these biopsies together with clinical information to determine: (a) whether a diagnosis other than chronic rejection would have been more appropriate, (b) how early posttransplant any chronic rejection changes occurred, and (c) if the diagnosis correlated with outcome. We found that (1) chronic rejection is uncommon in the first 6 months posttransplant; it was documented in only 27 (2.4%) of 1117 renal allografts and was preceded by acute rejection in all but 3 recipients (for these 3, the first biopsy specimen showed both acute and chronic rejection). (2) Chronic vascular rejection was seen in 1 recipient as early as 1 month posttransplant; the incidence increased over time and was associated with an actual graft survival rate of only 35%. (3)The most frequent cause of arterial intimai fibrosis in the first 6 months posttransplant was arteriosclerotic nephrosclerosis (ASNS) of donor origin. Longterm graft function for recipients with ASNS was 67%. (4)Early-onset ischemia or thrombosis was seen in 14 recipients and predicted poor outcome: Only 35.7% of these recipients had long-term graft function. (5) Cy-closporine (CsA) toxicity was implicated in only 3 recipients, who had mild diffuse interstitial fibrosis in association with elevated CsA levels. Other variables (including systemic hypertension, urinary tract infection, obstructive uropathy, neurogenic bladder, cobalt therapy, and recurrent disease) were not significantly associated with chronic renal lesions in the first 6 months posttransplant. A significant number of biopsies were originally interpreted as showing chronic rejection, but the diagnosis was changed upon réévaluation in conjunction with clinical data. We conclude that many factors coexist to produce chronic lesions in biopsies during the first 6 months posttransplant, so clinical correlation is needed before establishing a diagnosis of chronic rejection.