The diagnostic accuracy of cerebral ultrasound for periventricular haemorrhage was determined by comparing this with necropsy findings in 30 preterm neonates of 30 weeks' gestation or less and birthweight under 1500 g. Ultrasound gave an accurate diagnosis of 85% in infants with germinal layer haemorrhage, 92% in intraventricular haemorrhage, and 97% in intracerebral haemorrhage. False positive errors were caused by vascular congestion; false negative errors occurred when the maximum dimension of haemorrhage was less than 3 mm. Cerebral ultrasound gave a diagnostic accuracy of 63% for periventricular leucomalacia. False negative errors occurred when periventricular leucomalacia was microscopic or when it was out of range of the scanner. The maximum width of the germinal layer was measured in 77 neonates of gestational age 23 to 36 weeks who died and had no periventricular haemorrhage at necropsy. The progressive involution of the germinal layer with increasing gestational age paralleled the steady decrease in incidence of periventricular haemorrhage diagnosed over the same gestational age range. Neonates of the youngest gestational age who had the most extensive germinal layers also had the highest risk for periventricular haemorrhage.