The findings in 44 patients (42 of whom were chronic alcoholics) with central pontine myelinolysis show that the outcome does not depend on the severity of neurological deficits during the acute phase of the condition or on concomitant internal diseases, including the degree of hyponatremia. Of the 34 patients for whom follow-up data were available, 32 survived. Of these 11 completely recovered, 11 had some deficits but were independent, and 10 were dependent (4 through disorders of memory or cognition, 3 with tetraparesis, 2 with cerebellar ataxia, 1 with polyneuropathy). The electrophysiological findings did not contribute usefully to the prediction of outcome. Additional neuroradiological diagnostic testing with magnetic resonance imaging was also of no prognostic significance. The extent of the initial pontine lesion was not correlated with the severity of clinical findings during the acute phase of disease, nor was persistence of the pontine lesion as usually seen on magnetic resonance imaging correlated with clinical improvement. We conclude that patients with cerebral myelinolysis survive if the nonspecific secondary complications of transient illnesses such as aspiration pneumonia, ascending urinary tract infection with subsequent septicemia, deep venous thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism can be avoided.