Over a period of 1 year we diagnosed central pontine myelinolysis (CPM) in five patients all of whom survived, two of them with complete functional recovery despite extensive lesions on cranial computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. Diagnosis was based upon the combination of an acute brainstem dysfunction with typical neuroradiological features; a history of chronic alcoholism or a preceding hyponatremia may serve as a diagnostic hint. The spectrum of symptoms ranged from severe tetraplegia and cranial nerve palsies to latent signs of pyramidal tract lesions and discrete ocular motor abnormalities. In two patients pontine and extrapontine manifestations of demyelination were confirmed neuroradiologically; in one patient a solely extrapontine manifestation was present. Thus it is reasonable that: (1) the incidence of comparatively mild forms of CPM as well as extrapontine manifestations are more frequent than hitherto assumed, (2) the clinical outcome of the syndrome is better than expected from earlier fatal case reports and is quite independent of the extent of the lesion as it appears with brain imaging methods.