To evaluate the potential of the hepatobiliary magnetic resonance (MR) imaging contrast agent gadolinium EOB-DTPA (ethoxybenzyl diethylenetria-minepentaacetic acid) for the characterization of hepatic tumors, 79 primary and six implanted hepatomas in 38 rats were studied. MR imaging findings after administration of Gd-DTPA (0.3 mmol/kg) and Gd-EOB-DTPA (30 μmol/kg) were correlated with microangiographic and histologic findings. Gd-EOB-DTPA produced a strong liver enhancement, which caused prompt negative contrast enhancement (CE) in all implanted hepatomas and in 77 of 79 primary hepatomas. A positive CE that lasted up to 2 hours was found in two of 79 primary hepatomas, both of which were highly differentiated (grade I) hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs). The rest were moderately differentiated to undifferentiated HCCs (grades II-IV). Rim enhancement, which corresponded histologically to peritumoral malignant infiltration sequestering normal hepatocytes, was seen around all implanted and some primary hepatomas. Positive tumor CE after administration of Gd-EOB-DTPA in this study is much less frequent but much more specific in comparison with the results of previous studies with manganese-DPDP (N, N′-dipyridoxylethylenediamine-N,N′-diacetate 5,5′-bis[phosphate]). These findings may help further discriminate hepatic tumors.