The aim of this study was to evaluate if subjective symptoms, radiographic and especially MR parameters of cervical spine involvement, can predict neurologic dysfunction in patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Sequential radiographs, MR imaging, and neurologic examination were performed yearly in 46 consecutive RA patients with symptoms indicative of cervical spine involvement. Radiographic parameters were erosions of the dens or intervertebral joints, disc-space narrowing, horizontal and vertical atlantoaxial subluxation, subluxations below C2, and the diameter of the spinal canal. The MR features evaluated were presence of dens and atlas erosion, brainstem compression, subarachnoid space encroachment, pannus around the dens, abnormal fat body caudal to the clivus, cervicomedullary angle, and distance of the dens to the line of McRae. Muscle weakness was associated with a tenfold increased risk of neurologic dysfunction. Radiographic parameters were not associated. On MR images atlas erosion and a decreased distance of the dens to the line of McRae showed a fivefold increased risk of neurologic dysfunction. Subarachnoid space encroachment was associated with a 12-fold increased risk. Rheumatoid arthritis patients with muscle weakness and subarachnoid space encroachment of the entire cervical spine have a highly increased risk of developing neurologic dysfunction.