BACKGROUND: Craniopharyngioma is a suprasellar or intrasellar epithelial neoplasm that occurs in both children and adults. It accounts for 1.2 to 3 % of intracranial tumors with an incidence of 0.5 to 2 cases per one million populations each year. Recently, it has been postulated that it may have two pathogenetically separate subtypes, which are adamantinous and papillary craniopharyngioma, and that their clinical features may be different. However, there are some disagreements in this postulation. Therefore, we studied 22 consecutive patients with craniopharyngioma to evaluate the differences in clinical features and MRI findings between two subtypes. METHODS: We studied 22 patients with histologically proven craniopharyngioma after surgery at Samsung Medical center from 1995 to 1999. Thirteen patients were male, and nine patients were female. The average age was 30 years, with a range from 1 to 58 years. We divided 22 patients into two histopathologically separate subtypes; adamantinous and papillary subtypes. We compared the clinical features and MRI findings of two subtypes by reviewing medical records. RESULTS: Out of 22 patients with craniopharyngioma, 19 patients had an adamantinous subtype and 3 patients had a papillary subtype. The adamantinous subtype occurred frequently in the fifth decade and below twenty years, while the papillary subtype occurred predominantly in forth and fifth decades. The adamantinous subtype located in suprasellar or intrasellar portion as well as extrasellar portion, while the papillary subtype was restricted to the suprasellar location. The average tumor size of the adamantinous subtype was 3.7 cm, with a range from 1.4 to 6.0 cm, which was larger than that of the papillary subtype (average size 1.8 cm with a range from 1.5 to 2.3 cm, p< 0.05). The adamantinous subtype was predominantly cystic, while the papillary subtype was predominantly solid (p< 0.05). There were no significant differences in the preoperative clinical features and the postoperative complications between two subtypes. CONCLUSION: The adamantinous subtype had two peaks of occurrence in the fifth decade and below twenty years, while the papillary subtype occurred predominantly in forth and fifth decades. The adamantinous subtype was larger and had cystic portion, while the papillary subtype was smaller and had solid portion. The preoperative clinical features and the postoperative complications between two subtypes seemed not to be different.