In 30 children suffering from severe perinatal asphyxia an attempt was made to determine the early prognostic signs of severe hypoxic-ischemic brain injury with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Ten early (1-4 days of age), 16 intermediate (2-4 weeks of age), and 38 late MRI (older than 1 month of age) procedures were performed on a 2.35 T MR-system. Severe cerebral necrosis was suspected by T2 hyperintensity of the white matter, with blurred limits to the cortex in early MRI, and was confirmed by T1 hyperintensity of the cortex in intermediate MRI. Severe cerebral necrosis was established at 3 months of age. Of the 11 children with this pattern (group A), 8 had severe and 3 had moderate cerebral palsy on subsequent examination. Thirteen children (group B) had normal late MRI scans; none developed severe cerebral palsy or marked mental retardation. Two children (group C) had focal ischemic lesions. Four children had intracranial hemorrhage (group D). Groups A and B did not differ in the severity of their perinatal histories and findings, suggesting that MRI during the first 3 months is of significant prognostic value.