PURPOSE: We used MRI to retrospectively analyze the brain of patients suffering from cerebral palsy. Our aim is to determine MRI's role in the assessment of brain damage, the relationship of gestational age. METHODS: A total of 66 patients (29 preterm group and 37 term group), who visited Kang-Dong Sacred Heart Hospital from January, 1994 to July, 1998, were enrolled in this study. RESULTS: Among the 29 in the preterm group, 13 patients showed MR images of hypoxic ischemic injury in which periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) and multifocal ischemic necrosis in 12 (41.3%) and 1 (3.4%) respectively. Neuronal migration disorders were 6 (20.8%), other congenital malformations 5 (17%) and normal MR images 5 (17%) in this preterm group. Among the 37 in the term group, 22 patients showed MR images of hypoxic ischemic injury in which selective neuronal necrosis were 11 (29.7%), PVL 4 (10.8%), focal and multifocal ischemic necrosis 4 (10.8%) and status marmoratus 3 (8.1%). Neuronal migration disorders were 4 (10.8%), other congenital malformations 5 (13.5%) and normal MR images 6 (16.2%) in the term group. CONCLUSION: MRI provided useful information in a majority of children with cerebral palsy. Hypoxic ischemic injury was significantly different in preterm and term groups. PVL was frequent in the preterm group and selective neuronal necrosis was statistically common in the term group.