The Shy-Drager syndrome (SDS) is a form of progressive autonomic nervous system failure (PAF) with orthostatic hypotension and associated extrapyramidal involvement that is often mistaken for Parkinson disease. SDS includes olivopontocerebellar atrophy and striatonigral degeneration which is attended by PAF. Eight patients with SDS were studied on a 0.5-T superconducting system utilizing T1-weighted inversion recovery (IR) and T2-weighted spin-echo pulse sequences and also on a 1.5-T system using spin-echo sequences. With IR sequences, atrophy of the putamina was demonstrated in patients with SDS that is consistent with findings of neuronal loss in these nuclei reported on postmortem examinations. An abnormal decrease in signal intensity of the putamina, particularly along their lateral and posterior portions, was also detected, predominantly on T2-weighted sequences, and in three cases on T1-weighted spin-echo sequences. Abnormalities were detected on both imagers but were shown with greater clarity on the 1.5-T device. SDS is the first disease in which convincing basal ganglia changes have been shown in vivo exclusively by MR imaging.