Sixty-one consecutive patients with multiple myeloma were studied with magnetic resonance (MR) imaging of the spine. Sagittal T1-weighted and short inversion time (TI) inversion recovery (STIR) images were obtained. The MR patterns of the bone marrow were classified as diffuse (D) (n = 26), nodular (N) (n = 11), D + N (n = 13) or normal (n) (n = 11). Abnormal patterns were seen in 50 (82%) of the 61 patients. Correlations were found between the MR imaging patterns and some laboratory findings (WBC, haematocrit, platelet count, serum albumin, and percentage of marrow plasmacytosis). The survival of the patients with abnormal MRI patterns was significantly poorer than that of the patients with normal patterns. However, the survival of patients with a nodular pattern did not differ from those with a normal pattern. The MR imaging pattern of the bone marrow in patients with multiple myeloma is a useful factor in the assessment of prognosis.