Tumor necrosis, enhancement, and associated edema in patients with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) represent biological variables that can be quantitated on preoperative MRI scans. We reviewed 48 highly selected patients, all of whom had supratentorial lesions, had undergone gross total tumor resection, and had received adjuvant treatments (radio- and chemotherapies). None of these patients had had surgery for recurrent tumor resection and none had harbored multifocal tumors. The median age was 50 years. The median Karnofsky performance score was 80. Multivariate analysis using the Cox regression model revealed that the strongest prognostic variable was the amount of tumor necrosis on preoperative scan (P < 0.001), with median survivals of 42, 24, 15, and 12 months for tumor necrosis grades of 0 (7 'pts'), I (11 'pts'), II (9 'pts'), and III (21 'pts'), respectively. The intensity of enhancement of the tumor nodule was another prognostic factor (P = 0.003), with median survivals of 35, 18, and 13.5 months for enhancement grades of 0 (2 'pts'), I (22 'pts'), and II (24 'pts'), respectively. The extent of peritumoral edema had a quadratic effect (P = 0.001), with grades I (19 'pts'), II (22 'pts'), and III (7 'pts') surviving for 24, 12, and 20 months respectively. Location and volume of tumors were not statistically significant predictors of survival (P < 0.05). In conclusion, in this highly selected group, GBM patients with little or no necrosis and with less tumor nodule enhancement on preoperative MRI survive longer than patients with greater amounts of necrosis and greater degrees of tumor enhancement. In addition, a moderate degree of peritumoral edema is associated with worse prognosis.