The loss of blood vessel visibility due to the signal saturation of slow flow can be partially overcome by the T1 reduction that occurs with the use of contrast agents such as Gd-DTPA during magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) studies. Dynamic-imaging techniques that have been applied successfully in abdominal imaging may also be useful for intracranial applications. However, the time between arterial and venous enhancement is very short during intracranial circulation. This limits the spatial resolution that can be obtained between arterial and venous enhancement. Fortunately, the blood-brain barrier and the relatively long duration of significant decrease in blood T1 has led to the development of very high resolution intracranial MRA techniques. Knowledge of the contrast-agent dilution factors and the ultimate resulting relaxation rates can be used to optimize the imaging parameters to maximize vessel signal relative to the background signal (the signal-difference-to-noise ratio). The additional venous vascular detail in the contrast-enhanced study can be spatially resolved in the 3D image data and determined by incorporating information from both high-resolution precontrast and postcontrast studies. In this article, the history, development and application of contrast agents in MRA are presented.