Upper tract dilatation is an important complication of neurogenic bladder dysfunction. Risk factors include incomplete bladder emptying with large residual volumes of urine and high tonic increases in bladder pressures during artificial filling. However, on natural bladder filling many of these patients do not have high tonic increases in detrusor pressures. We compared conventional urodynamic studies with ambulatory monitoring during natural bladder filling in 66 patients with low compliance neurogenic bladder dysfunction. There were marked differences in the tonic increase in bladder pressure during filling and in compliance during artificial bladder filling compared with ambulatory monitoring. Faster filling rates during artificial filling resulted in greater end filling pressures and lower compliance but the lowest increases in bladder pressure were found during ambulatory monitoring with natural bladder filling. During natural bladder filling significantly more patients had phasic changes in detrusor pressure; a high intensity of phasic activity during ambulatory monitoring correlated with high end filling pressures during artificial bladder filling. Upper tract dilatation was associated with large volumes of residual urine, high resting bladder pressures and low bladder compliance on filling at 100 ml. per minute. However, upper tract dilatation was most strongly associated with high intensity phasic pressure activity during natural bladder filling in combination with high residual urine volumes and high resting bladder pressures. On multivariate statistical analysis the intensity of phasic pressure activity during ambulatory monitoring was the best discriminator between patients with dilated and normal upper tracts. Our study has highlighted important differences in the results obtained by artificial filling cystometry and ambulatory monitoring during natural bladder filling. In particular, high increases in pressure did not occur during natural bladder filling, apparently being replaced by phasic activity. Within this group of patients who had the high risk factor of low bladder compliance measured during artificial bladder filling, a combination of greater residual urine volumes, greater resting pressures and greater phasic activity during natural bladder filling was found in patients with upper tract dilatation.