Considering the highly variable vascular supply of the thalamic nuclei, MRI and clinical syndromes can be heterogeneous in ischemic diseases. We attempt to determine MRI pattern and to analyse neurological features and prognosis of paramedian infarcts. In a prospective case series within 5 years from 1999 to 2003, MRI, MRA and clinical symptoms of 38 consecutive patients were analysed. The inferomedial (posterior thalamoperforating artery) territory was affected in 89%, and lesions in the anterolateral (tuberothalamic artery) territory occurred in 42%. However, definite attribution to anterolateral or inferomedial territories was not possible in 13%. Neurological manifestations were somnolence (87%), hemisyndromes (79%), cognitive deficits (58%), oculomotor nerve palsies (53%) and vertical gaze palsies (39%). The most common aetiologies were cardiac embolism (42%), intraarterial embolism (16%), small vessel disease (13%) and large artery arteriosclerosis (13%). Pathological MRA findings were encountered in 55%, and in 18%, lesions were only visible on diffusion-weighted imaging. Correlation of MRI pattern and neurological symptoms points out anterolateral thalamic lesions as the cause of amnestic deficits. Intracranial MRA allows a non-invasive prediction of basilar tip occlusion. Our results underline the necessity of additional diffusion-weighted imaging in detecting small thalamic and midbrain lesions.