Sixteen patients with cirrhosis of the liver underwent cranial magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and transarterial portography to evaluate the relationship between basal ganglia lesions and portal-systemic collateral vessels. No neuropsychiatric disturbance was observed in any of the patients at the time of the MR examination, but four patients with portal-systemic encephalopathy were included in the study. Basal ganglia lesions, characterized by increased signal intensity on T1-weighted MR images, were observed in nine of the 16 patients, including the four with portal-systemic encephalopathy. These nine patients had large portal-systemic collateral vessels that were more than 10 mm in diameter. These collateral vessels were receiving blood from the superior mesenteric vein (SMV) in all nine patients. The lesions involved the globus pallidus and portions of internal capsules in a bilateral and symmetric fashion and did not exhibit mass effect. The authors conclude that there may be a significant relationship between high-intensity basal ganglia lesions and large portal-systemic collateral vessels receiving blood from the SMV.