In this case-control study, we analyzed 146 wrists: a) to search for the distribution pattern of the rheumatoid lesions and, b) to correlate the distribution pattern of these lesions with the clinical parameters. Thirty-one patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and 42 controls-all women-were examined by means of a bilateral MR fast field echo (FFE) sequence, in axial plan. The wrist was divided into three regions: metacarpal (level I), carpal (level II) and radioulnar (level III). Erosions were present in thirty (97%) patients and in six (14%) controls. They were asymmetrically distributed at all levels, mainly at level II. Marrow infiltration and bone destruction were seen in 35% of the patients in an asymmetrical pattern at level I and II, respectively. These lesions were absent in the control group. Subchondral cysts were asymmetrically present in both groups-in 48% of the patients at levels II and III, and in 11% of the controls at level II. In the patient group, this asymmetrical pattern of the lesions correlated with the disease duration at levels I and II (p = 0.011 and p = 0.013, respectively). Most lesions were found at the radial force-bearing column of the wrist, more in the right side. Synovial hypertrophy and hyperintense median nerve were evident in 96% and 70% of the patients, respectively. We concluded that contrary to common belief rheumatoid damages to the carpal bones become rather asymmetrical as the disease progresses. The line of force along the radial side of the wrist possibly influences the distribution pattern of the rheumatoid lesions.