A magnetic resonance imaging pulse sequence (GRASS) with a short repetition time (TR), short echo time (TE), partial flip angle, and gradient refocused echo was prospectively evaluated for the detection of cervical cord disease that caused minimal or no cord enlargement in eight patients. Sagittal T2-weighted, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)-gated images and sagittal and axial GRASS images were obtained in all patients. The following GRASS parameters were manipulated to determine their effect on signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) and contrast: flip angle (4 degrees-18 degrees), TR (22-50 msec), and TE (12.5-25 msec). Flip angle had the greatest effect on S/N and contrast. There were no differences between axial and sagittal imaging for the spinal cord or lesion. However, because the signal intensity of CSF did differ on sagittal and axial images and because this influenced the conspicuity of lesions, there was a difference in the useful flip angle range for axial and sagittal imaging. No one set of imaging parameters was clearly superior, and in all patients, the gated image was superior to the sagittal GRASS image in lesion detection. GRASS images should be used in the axial plane primarily to confirm spinal cord disease detected on sagittal CSF-gated images. For this, a balanced approach is suggested (TR = 40 msec, TE = 20 msec, with flip angles of 4 degrees-6 degrees for sagittal and 6 degrees-8 degrees for axial imaging).