We present the results of quantitative Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) in 55 consecutively referred patients with clinical evidence of temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). The Cavalieri method was used in combination with point counting to provide unbiased estimates of the volume of the left and right hippocampus, amygdala, temporal lobe, lateral ventricles and cerebral hemisphere, and pixel by pixel maps of the T2 relaxation time were computed for both central and anterior sections of the hippocampus. The 99th centiles of hippocampal volume, hippocampal volume asymmetry and T2 relaxation times in 20 control subjects provided limits which identified the presence of MTS. The results of the quantitative MRI were compared with the results of conventional diagnostic MRI, foramen ovale (FO) recording and the WADA test. Thirty-one patients were found to have unilateral MTS (17 left and 14 right) and 7 bilateral MTS. No evidence of MTS was detected in 16 patients. Of the 31 patients diagnosed with unilateral MTS on the basis of hippocampal volume and T2 measurement, 74% and 77% would respectively have received the same diagnosis on the basis of hippocampal volume and T2 measurements alone. In comparison to FO recording, quantitative MRI has a sensitivity of 55% and a specificity of 86%, while conventional diagnostic MRI has a sensitivity of 42% and a specificity of 80% for detection of MTS. Unilateral abnormalities were detected by FO recording in 30% cent of patients who appeared normal on quantitative MRI. WADA test results were available for 40 patients. The findings were consistent with quantitative MRI showing reduced memory function ipsilateral to unilateral MTS in 18 patients, but reduced memory function contralateral to unilateral MTS in two patients, and reduced memory function without MR abnormality in seven patients. WADA testing revealed unilateral memory impairments where MRI found bilateral pathology in 4 patients and in 4 patients in whom quantitative MRI detected unilateral MTS there was no evidence of reduced memory during WADA testing of the corresponding cerebral hemisphere. In the patients with unilateral right MTS a highly significant negative correlation (p = 0.0003) was observed between age of onset and the volume of the contralateral temporal lobe. Quantitative MR imaging of the hippocampus (i.e. volume and T2 measurement) is preferable to conventional radiological reporting for providing objective evidence of the presence of MTS on which to base the referral of patients for surgery, and since it has associated morbidity FO recording is now only being used in selected patients. Furthermore, stereology provides a convenient method for estimating the volume of other brain structures, which is relevant to obtaining a better understanding of the effects of laterality and age of onset of TLE.