In summary, MRI has a high sensitivity for the detection of inflammatory disease involving the musculoskeletal system. Because of the usual anatomic pattern of involvement in the vertebral column, there is also a high specificity. In the appendicular skeleton and pelvis, it is unclear whether MRI can add to the sensitivity and specificity of radionuclide studies in uncomplicated cases of acute infection. However, it can be performed more rapidly and provides greater anatomic detail and delineation of the extent of marrow involvement than radionuclide studies. MRI can be used in both acute and chronic osteomyelitis to guide a diagnostic interventional test to the appropriate site. It is capable of excluding involvement of the medullary canal, and it is better than radionuclide studies for differentiating soft tissue infection with periostitis from osteomyelitis. It has only a limited role in the immediate postoperative period, and in the presence of metallic implants, an indium-labeled leukocyte scan may be more appropriate. Finally, it must be remembered that the current data base of MRI is small and that further refinement of its role in the evaluation of inflammatory processes will be forthcoming.