Concomitant gradient fields are transverse magnetic field components that are necessarily present to satisfy Maxwell's equations when magnetic field gradients are utilized in magnetic resonance imaging. They can have deleterious effects that are more prominent at lower static fields and/or higher gradient strengths. In diffusion tensor imaging schemes that employ large gradients that are not symmetric about a refocusing radiofrequency pulse (unlike Stejskal–Tanner, which is symmetric), concomitant fields may cause phase accrual that could corrupt the diffusion measurement. Theory predicting the error from this dephasing is described and experimentally validated for both Reese twice-refocused and split gradient single spin-echo diffusion gradient schemes. Bias in apparent diffusion coefficient values was experimentally found to worsen with distance from isocenter and with increasing duration of gradient asymmetry in both a phantom and in the brain. The amount of error from concomitant gradient fields depends on many variables, including the diffusion gradient pattern, pulse sequence timing, maximum effective gradient amplitude, static magnetic field strength, voxel size, slice distance from isocenter, and partial Fourier fraction. A prospective correction scheme that can reduce concomitant gradient errors is proposed and verified for diffusion imaging. Magn Reson Med, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.