Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging was compared with computed tomography (CT) in 13 children with mediastinal abnormalities. CT and MR provided comparable information regarding the presence and size of the mediastinal lesions. The MR imaging technique that was most reliable in detecting a mass was a T1-weighted spin-echo pulse sequence. MR better discriminated mediastinal masses and enlarged nodes from vascular structures and was more sensitive than CT in detecting intraspinal extension. However, CT demonstrated calcification and bronchial abnormalities not seen on MR images. It is concluded that MR may be more helpful than CT in evaluating posterior mediastinal tumors, since there is a likelihood of intraspinal extension. In other cases, however, CT continues to be the procedure of choice to supplement plain radiography in children with suspected mediastinal neoplasms.