To correlate the morphologic appearance on magnetic resonance (MR) images of radiographically negative avascular necrosis (AVN) of the femoral head with that on computed tomographic (CT) and radionuclide scans, the radiographic and clinical records of 24 patients were reviewed retrospectively. In 18 patients the MR signal intensity features were monitored by means of serial imaging. All MR studies included T1-weighted (short repetition time [TR], short echo delay time [TE] ) imaging and T2-weighted imaging (long TR, long TE). Thirty-one hips were determined with MR to be involved by AVN; 27 were staged on the basis of signal intensity characteristics within the low-intensity rim. Core decompression was performed on 18 hips. Afterward, progression of disease occurred in only one hip. Fourteen of the 16 asymptomatic patients (88%) had early-stage focal lesions. CT scans were obtained in 15 patients and radionuclide scans in 21. Ten hips at radionuclide imaging and five at CT appeared normal when MR results were distinctly abnormal. MR can depict early radiographically negative AVN in asymptomatic individuals. At this early stage, the lesions in this series appear to be nonprogressive after treatment.