Small spinal cord lesions, even if clinically significant, can be due to the low sensitivity of some pulse sequences. We compared T2-weighted fast (FSE), and conventional (CSE) spin-echo and short-tau inversion-recovery (STIR)-FSE overlooked on MRI sequences to evaluate their sensitivity to and specificity for lesions of different types. We compared the three sequences in MRI of 57 patients with cervical spinal symptoms. The image sets were assessed by two of us individually for final diagnosis, lesion detectability and image quality. Both readers arrived at the same final diagnoses with all sequences, differentiating four groups of patients. Group 1 (30 patients, 53%), with a final diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS). Demyelinating lesions were better seen on STIR-FSE images, on which the number of lesions was significantly higher than on FSE, while the FSE and CSE images showed approximately equal numbers of lesions; additional lesions were found in 9 patients. The contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) of 17 demyelinating lesions was significantly higher on STIR-FSE images than with the other sequences. Group 2, 19 patients (33%) with cervical pain, 15 of whom had disc protrusion or herniation: herniated discs were equally well delineated with all sequences, with better myelographic effect on FSE. In five patients with intrinsic spinal cord abnormalities, the conspicuity and demarcation of the lesions were similar with STIR-FSE and FSE. Group 3, 4 patients (7%) with acute myelopathy of unknown aetiology. In two patients, STIR-FSE gave better demarcation of lesions and in one a questionable additional lesions. Group 4, 4 patients (7%) with miscellaneous final diagnoses. STIR-FSE had high sensitivity to demyelinating lesions, can be considered quite specific and should be included in spinal MRI for assessment of suspected demyelinating disease.