To clarify the distribution patterns of hypertrophy at the apical level in patients with giant negative T waves (GNT), ECG-gated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed in 10 patients with GNT and in five normal controls. End-diastolic left ventricular short-axis images at the basal and apical levels were obtained in all subjects. Thicknesses of the septal, anterior, lateral and posterior walls at these two levels were measured and distribution of hypertrophied myocardium (more than or equal to 15 mm) at the apical level was examined. The ratio (R) of the maximal thickness at the apical level over that at the basal level was calculated. In normal subjects, the mean apical wall thickness was 8.7 +/- 1.9 mm. In the GNT group, the wall thickness was always greater than the mean value +3 SD of the normal control, and there were no differences among the four segmental walls. The hypertrophic portions at the apex were circumferential in three, septal-anterior-lateral in two, septal-anterior in two, septal in one, anterior in one and lateral in one. In patients with GNT, the average maximal thickness at the apical level was 19.3 +/- 3.2 mm; by location, four cases in the septum, four in the anterior wall and two in the lateral wall, and the average minimum thickness was 11.7 +/- 3.7 mm; all in the posterior wall. The R was more than 1.3 in nine patients with GNT and less than 1.0 in all normal subjects. In conclusion, there was a variety of patterns of apical hypertrophy, and the R greater than or equal to 1.3 was characteristic in patients with GNT.