Thirty-one cases of stage 1 or 2 osteonecrosis (ON) of the hip in 27 patients were studied with T1-weighted coronal magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. Three quantitative parameters were measured on the contiguous MR sections, corresponding to the 2-cm-wide median portion of the femoral head: the angle filled by ON (alpha), the percentage of weight-bearing femoral cortex involved with ON (WB), and the percentage of femoral head surface involved with ON. The clinical and radiologic courses were assessed after at least 2 years of follow-up (mean, 46 months). Core decompression was performed in 12 cases of ON. Values were strikingly lower in the group with good clinical or radiologic outcome versus poor outcome, with very little overlapping. WB was the more reliable parameter. Outcome of hips treated with versus without core decompression appeared closely related with these MR parameters and not with the treatment procedure. Thus, a quantitative approach to determination of extent and location of the lesion on the initial MR image appears accurate for use in the prediction of long-term outcome of ON. Effectiveness of core decompression should be reevaluated on this basis.