The clinical information on 22 patients with orbital optic nerve gliomas and 47 patients with meningiomas was correlated with computed tomographic findings obtained in both axial and coronal studies. Most of the gliomas occurred in children, although 7 patients presented after 20 years of age. Among the patients with meningiomas, the majority were women in early middle age, although two tumors occurred in children less than 20 years of age. Low grades of proptosis (median, 2 mm for both tumors), frequent significant visual field obscurations with eye movements, and opto-ciliary shunt vessels pointed toward the diagnosis of an optic nerve tumor. Patients with gliomas generally manifested massively swollen fusiform optic nerves with clear-cut margins due to circumscription by an intact dura. Kinks and bucklings of the optic nerve as well as infarctive cysts distinguished the glioma CT-scan patterns from the meningiomas. Distinctive axial CT-scan features of the meningiomas not shared by the gliomas were narrowly and diffusely enlarged nerves with polar expansions either at the orbital apex or immediately behind the globe; calcification; irregular excrescent margins signifying extradural invasion into the orbital soft tissues; a negative optic nerve shadow running down the center of the lesion; and bone erosion near the orbital apex. Coronal studies often revealed irregular margins signifying transgression of the dura. A diffusely and narrowly enlarged optic nerve shadow with regular margins (intrasheath lesions) was the one morphologically overlapping pattern displayed by 11 meningiomas and three gliomas. In these cases there tended to be more profound visual loss in the gliomas compared with the meningiomas, as well as the more frequent presence of opto-ciliary vessels in the meningiomas. Arteriography may be helpful in this particular category by demonstrating a tumor blush for the meningiomas, whereas this finding is typically absent with optic nerve gliomas. Meningiomas may be very closely simulated by dural or intraneural inflammations.