In a previous report the long-term prognosis of 30 patients with renal scarring after pyelonephritis in childhood was described. In this study, we have related the extent of renal scarring present in childhood to the conditions in early adulthood. A radiological progression of searring from childhood to adulthood was seen in one-third of the kidneys. The 7 patients with bilateral scarring in childhood had a smaller renal area, lower glomerular filtration rate and higher plasma vasopressin at follow-up than 13 healthy controls. The 20 patients who had unilateral searring in childhood had a smaller renal area, lower glomerular filtration rate, higher diastolic blood pressure and higher plasma renin at follow-up than controls; 4 had hypertension. The most important finding was that children with unilateral disease are at risk of serious long-term complications. Filtration fraction at follow-up was higher in patients with extensive renal scarring in childhood compared with those with a normal renal area or small scars in childhood (r=−0.43,P<0.05). This may indicate glomerular hyperfiltration by remnant glomeruli. This paper emphasizes the potential seriousness of childhood urinary tract infections especially when early infantile infections are overlooked. A follow-up of more than 4 decades may be necessary before the ultimate prognosis can be established, especially in patients with unilateral renal disease. It is advised that most patients with post-infectious renal scars are followed as high-risk patients, and that treatment continuity is established between paediatricians, nephrologists and, when required, obstetricians.