This retrospective study was performed to assess the capability of magnetic resonance (MR) to depict and characterize diffuse and focal radiation lesions in the brain using the spin-echo technique. The MR images of 55 patients who had undergone radiation therapy were reviewed. Comparative computed tomography (CT) studies were available for all the patients. Normal white matter was chosen as reference tissue for the quantitative comparison of signal intensities. Radiation lesions (identified in eight patients) were seen as regions of high signal intensity on the sequence with a long repetition time (TR) (2.0 sec) and showed no difference in signal compared with white matter when the TR was short (0.5 sec). Nonspecific prolongation of T1 and T2 relaxation times was measured in such lesions. In one patient, subependymal tumor spread, demonstrated by contrast-enhanced CT, was missed on MR images, masked by the adjacent abnormal signal owing to radiation effects. Recurrent or residual brain tumor could not be distinguished from radiation brain necrosis either by CT or by MR imaging. It is concluded that MR can depict radiation lesions with great sensitivity but is not very helpful for discrimination between recurrent or residual brain tumor, radiation necrosis, and other brain lesions.