Fifty-five patients with atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors of the central nervous system were studied to define the clinical and pathologic features of this newly described neoplasm. The lesion occurred primarily in children younger than 2 (mean age at diagnosis, 17 months). The neoplasms were located in the posterior fossa (36 patients) and the supratentorial compartment (17 patients) or were multifocal in both compartments (2 patients) at presentation. Histologically, the tumors were composed of small cells and large, pale cells in a jumbled architectural arrangement. The small cell component resembled medulloblastoma and occasionally had cords of cells in a mucinous background, simulating chordoma. The cytoplasm of the larger cells was conspicuous with a somewhat "rhabdoid" appearance, although rhabdoid features were not always prominent. Epithelioid features in the form of poorly formed glands or Flexner-Wintersteiner rosettes were noted in a minority of lesions. The neoplasms showed striking polyphenotypic immunoreactivity, including that for vimentin, glial fibrillary acidic protein, epithelial membrane antigen, cytokeratins, synaptophysin, chromogranin, and smooth muscle actin. Using a probe for chromosome 22, seven of eight scorable cases showed a solitary signal by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) consistent with monosomy 22. The eighth scorable case showed three signals by fluorescence in situ hybridization and had a translocation involving chromosome 22 reported by conventional cytogenetics. In contrast to patients with medulloblastoma, the neoplasm with which these lesions are often confused, the outcome of the patients was uniformly poor. The mean postoperative survival of patients with atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors was only 11 months. Local recurrence, seeding of the cerebrospinal fluid pathways, or both, were common terminal events. This study underscores the distinctive clinical, histopathologic, immunohistochemical, and cytogenetic character of this unusually aggressive tumor.