The clinical management and prognosis of patients with diffusely infiltrating astrocytomas are dependent on neuropathological grading of the tumors. The characteristics of MR images of high-grade astrocytic tumors are well known, but the early MRI appearance and the MRI evolution of high-grade astrocytic tumors have rarely been examined. We retrospectively reviewed MR images obtained from 4 months to 3 years and 3 months before admission, as well as MR images on admission, for five patients with pathologically proven high-grade astrocytic tumors (two glioblastomas and three anaplastic astrocytomas). In two patients, neoplastic lesions were not detectable on initial MRI, even retrospectively. In the remaining three patients, however, hyperintense areas with little or no mass effect were demonstrated on T2-weighted imaging. These lesions were misinterpreted as non-neoplastic processes, such as ischemic lesion or infarction, or demyelinating processes. All tumors showed gadolinium enhancement on admission, that emerged from the previously existing hyperintense areas on T2-weighted images without gadolinium enhancement, except for one de novo glioblastoma. Development of a small central cyst without gadolinium enhancement was demonstrated in one case before the emergence of an enhancing area.