This study evaluates the effectiveness of CT and MR imaging in differentiating intradural extramedullary spinal schwannomas and meningiomas in a large group of patients. In addition, the study correlates tumour location, morphologic characteristics and enhancement pattern. From January 2000 to June 2007, we retrospectively reviewed 128 consecutive patients (51 male, 77 female; mean age at admission 53.8 years; range 17-83 years) with spinal intradural extramedullary tumours (92 schwannomas, 36 meningiomas) at our institution. Fifty-one of ninety-two schwannomas (55.4%) showed fluid signal intensity on T2-weighted MR images. Twenty-two of thirty-six meningiomas (61.1%) showed hyperintense signal intensity and thirteen of thirty-six meningiomas (36.1%) showed isointense signal on T2-weighted MR images. Fifty-four schwannomas (58.7%) showed rim enhancement and thirty-three meningiomas (91.7%) showed diffuse enhancement on contrast-enhanced T1-weighted MR imaging. Twenty-one meningiomas (58.3%) showed dural tail sign in contrast-enhanced T1-weighted MR imaging. Twenty-one meningiomas (58.3%) showed calcification on CT images. MR and CT imaging results are therefore useful for the differentiation of schwannomas from meningiomas of the spine.