Microdysgenesis is a microscopic malformation of cortical development characterized by heterotopic neurones and abnormal cortical architecture. It has been described in primary generalized and partial epilepsy. Its significance in epileptogenesis is controversial, partly due to lack of consensus of diagnostic criteria. Different terms have also been used for the malformation. Several quantitative studies have been performed of the histopathological aberrations associated with microdysgenesis. A majority of the studies have revealed an increased number of heterotopic neurones in specimens from epilepsy patients. However, the quantitative values given for abnormal numbers of white matter neurones vary greatly between studies and there is no consensus yet on quantitative criteria for microdysgenesis. There have also been conflicting results from studies correlating microdysgenesis with clinical data. Both favourable and worse outcome after epilepsy surgery have been reported in patients with increased numbers of white matter neurones and microdysgenesis. While some studies have shown earlier seizure onset and increased frequency of mental retardation in patients with microdysgenesis, others have not. Differences in inclusion criteria and definition might contribute to the contradictory results. There is some evidence that microdysgenesis could be important in epileptogenesis, but the mechanisms involved remain unknown and difficult to investigate. A consensus on what histopathological criteria to use for the diagnosis of microdysgenesis is needed to explore this further and enable comparisons between centres. There are advantages and disadvantages both with quantitative stereological and with qualitative assessments. It is necessary to evaluate these in the decision on diagnostic criteria, if possible taking both qualitative and quantitative aspects into account.