We assessed the capacity of MRI to show and characterise the spinal cord (SC) in vivo in normal and chronically injured adult rats. In the chronically injured animals the SC was studied by MRI and histological examination. MRI was performed at 1.5 T, using gradient-echo and spin-echo (SE) sequences, the latter with and without gadolinium-DTPA (Gd-DTPA). Several positions were tried for good alignment and to diminish interference by respiratory movements. Images of the SC were obtained in sagittal, coronal, and axial planes. Normal SC was observed as a continuous intensity in both sequences, although contrast resolution was better using SE; it was not possible to differentiate the grey and white matter. Low signal was seen in the damaged area in chronically injured rats, which corresponded to cysts, trabeculae, mononuclear infiltrate, and fibroglial wall on histological examination. Gd-DTPA failed to enhance the SC in normal or chronically injured rats. It did, however, cause enhancement of the lesion after acute SC injury.