The authors report the postoperative magnetic resonance (MR) imaging findings in 36 patients with advanced Parkinson's disease who underwent unilateral microelectrode-guided posteroventral pallidotomy. The lesions were placed within 1 mm of the ventral border of the globus pallidus internus (GPi) to include pallidothalamic outflow pathways. Sequential MR studies were obtained within 1 to 3 days postoperatively and at 6-month follow-up examination. Thirty-four (94%) of the 36 patients enjoyed sustained moderate or marked improvement of their parkinsonian symptoms 6 months postoperatively. Transient side effects occurred in five patients (14%), but there were no persistent complications. The pallidal radiofrequency lesions were prolate spheroid shaped and were composed of three concentric zones in the early postoperative studies. The mean volume of the middle zone, corresponding to the area of hemorrhagic coagulation necrosis, was 44.4 +/- 17.6 mm3; the mean lesion volume as defined by the outer zone, corresponding to perilesional edema, was 262.2 +/- 111.6 mm3. Additional edema spreading to the internal capsule was noted in 32 of 34 cases and to the optic tract in 11 of 34 cases. In two patients small ischemic infarctions involving the corona radiata were found, and in one a venous infarction was detected. Ischemic infarction resulted in mild transient Broca's aphasia in one patient, but there was no detectable neurological deficit in the other two. The mean volume of late-phase (6 months) lesions was 22 +/- 28.8 mm3. In three patients no lesion was identified despite sustained clinical improvement. The lesion was located in the posteroventral GPi in all cases except in one patient in whom it was confined to the GP externus (GPe). This 49-year-old woman did not experience sustained benefit. The authors found no consistent correlations between lesion size and location and clinical outcome as measured by a global outcome score, the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale motor, activities of daily living, and bradykinesia "off" scores or rating of dyskinesias. Lesioning of pallidal and subpallidal pathways may contribute to the sustained clinical benefit in this series. Magnetic resonance imaging analysis showed that intraoperative microelectrode recording facilitated accurate placement of the lesion in this critical area.