Proton MR spectroscopy (PMRS) has been found to be useful in differentiating various cystic intracranial lesions. The purpose of the present study was to prospectively evaluate the spectral pattern of various cystic lesions of brain with similar imaging appearances and to determine the accuracy of this technique in the differential diagnosis of these lesions. Fifty-one patients with intracranial cystic lesions (21 abscesses, 20 gliomas, 3 hydatid cysts, 3 arachnoid cysts, 1 case each of glioependymal cyst, xanthogranuloma, infarction and acoustic neuroma) were evaluated with conventional MR imaging and in vivo PMRS. Ex vivo PMRS of the cystic contents aspirated at surgery in 31 cases was also done to confirm the in-vivo results. Preoperative diagnosis of the lesions was based on the results of in vivo PMRS. In vivo PMRS accurately predicted the pathology in 92% of the cases. We conclude that in-vivo PMRS complements imaging in better characterization of cystic intracranial mass lesions.