Thirty-three patients with a variety of disorders of the thoracic aorta (aneurysm, dissection, Marfan syndrome, coarctation/pseudocoarctation, L-transposition, and Takayasu disease) were evaluated with magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. MR imaging delineated the presence and extent of thoracic aortic aneurysms and showed the relationship of the aneurysm to arch vessels; it also demonstrated intimal flaps and individual lumina in types A and B aortic dissection. Dilation of the ascending aorta in Marfan syndrome and focal narrowing of the aorta in coarctation were well visualized. The anteroposterior and side-to-side relationships of the aorta and pulmonary artery in L-transposition were demonstrated, as were aortic wall thickening and branch vessel narrowing in Takayasu arteritis. Initial experience suggests that MR imaging may provide a noninvasive method for evaluating thoracic aortic disease. Limitations include inferior spatial resolution, occasional difficulty in imaging the entire region of interest in one section, lack of signal from calcifications, and inability to monitor critically ill patients.