We report the results of a consensus conference on the diagnosis of multiple system atrophy. We describe the clinical features of the disease, which include four domains: autonomic failure/urinary dysfunction, parkinsonism and cerebellar ataxia, and corticospinal dysfunction. We set criteria to define the relative importance of these features. The diagnosis of possible multiple system atrophy requires one criterion plus two features from separate domains. The diagnosis of probable multiple system atrophy requires the criterion for autonomic failure/urinary dysfunction plus poor levodopa responsive parkinsonism or cerebellar ataxia. The diagnosis of definite multiple system atrophy requires pathological confirmation.