Fast spin-echo (FSE) is a new sequence with acquisition times currently down to one-sixteenth of those obtained with conventional spin-echo sequences, which allows high-resolution (512 x 512 matrix) images to be acquired in an acceptable time. We compared the higher resolution of FSE with the medium resolution of a short inversion-time inversion-recovery (STIR) sequence in depicting the optic nerves of healthy controls and patients with optic neuritis. Optic nerve MRI examinations were performed in 18 patients with optic neuritis and 10 normal controls. Two sequences were obtained coronally: fat-suppressed FSE (FSE TR 3250 ms/TEef 68 ms, echo-train length 16, 4 excitations, 24 cm rectangular field of view, 3 mm interleaved contiguous slices, in-plane resolution 0.5 x 0.5 mm) and STIR (TR 2000 ms/TE 50 ms/TI 175 ms, in-plane resolution 0.8 x 0.8 mm, slice thickness 5 mm). FSE demonstrated much more anatomical detail than STIR, e.g. distinction of optic nerve and sheath. Lesions were seen in 20 of 21 symptomatic nerves using FSE and in 18 of 21 using STIR. Nerve swelling or partial cross-sectional lesions of the optic nerve were each seen only on FSE in 3 cases. Fat-suppressed FSE imaging of the optic nerve improves anatomical definition and increases lesion detection in optic neuritis.