Orbital fat surrounding the optic nerve causes considerable difficulties in NMR imaging due to its high image intensity and the chemical shift artefact. We have investigated the ability of inversion recovery sequences with short inversion times (STIR sequences) to suppress fat signals in imaging the optic nerve. We have also compared the contrast attainable with STIR sequences with that obtainable from other sequences. Measurements were made on 4 normal controls and 5 patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) to obtain typical values of relaxation times and proton densities for orbital fat, cerebral white matter and MS lesions. The fat T1 measurements were used to predict an appropriate inversion time for the STIR sequence and estimate how much residual fat signal might be expected as a result of natural variations in fat T1. STIR sequences can be used to suppress the signal from orbital fat with little residual signal. Measurements from white matter and MS lesions were used to predict the contrast between normal and pathological tissues that is attainable with STIR sequences. STIR contrast compares favourably with that obtainable from other sequences.