Oligodendroglial neoplasms with the -1p/-19q genotype are more indolent with longer survival and increased therapeutic responsiveness than those with intact 1p/19q, but the biological basis for these clinical differences is unclear. Recent research suggests that oligodendrogliomas with and without the -1p/-19q genotype may be distinguished by their magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) appearance, suggesting possible differences in growth characteristics. This study examined the relationship between genotype and histological growth patterns of oligodendroglial neoplasms in association with MR imaging characteristics. Tumour imaging features assessed on MRI included sharp-versus-indistinct border, smooth-versus-irregular contour, homogeneous-versus-heterogeneous signal, contrast enhancement and paramagnetic susceptibility effect. Growth patterns (solid : mixed : infiltrative), tumour-margin transitions in cellularity and calcification were determined histopathologically. Allelic imbalance in chromosomes 1p36 and 19q13 was determined. Thirty-three oligodendrogliomas (25 with 1p/19q loss) and 53 oligoastrocytomas (18 with 1p/19q loss) were investigated. Solid, mixed or infiltrative growth patterns were seen in grade II and grade III tumours with or without 1p/19q loss, but infiltrative growth was more common in tumours with intact 1p/19q (chi2: P = 0.029). Grade III tumours were more likely to have a solid growth pattern (chi2: P = 0.046) associated with contrast enhancement (chi2: P = 0.011). Transition in cellularity at the radiological margin did not differ according to genotype. All cases with T1 or T2 signal homogeneity had intact 1p/19q. Tumours with sharp/smooth borders were more likely to have intact 1p/19q than those with indistinct/irregular borders (chi2: P < 0.001), but this was not related to histological growth characteristics. This study identified a group of oligodendroglial tumours with intact 1p/19q displaying distinctive MR imaging features that were unrelated to the histopathology characteristics.