The dynamics of primary progressive multiple sclerosis differ from those of the more common secondary progressive form. The observation by MRI that the frequency of enhancement with gadolinium-DTPA, a marker for blood-brain barrier dysfunction, is significantly less in the primary progressive form, has led to the hypothesis that inflammation is less intense in this group. To test this, we have studied postmortem material from nine cases judged from a retrospective analysis of case notes to show clear clinical evidence of either primary progressive or secondary progressive disease. Five hundred and seventy-eight lesions were analysed. There was significantly more inflammation in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (as judged by the frequency of perivascular cuffing and cellularity of the parenchyma) than in primary progressive disease. These observations have implications for therapeutic strategies in progressive multiple sclerosis.