The relationship between magnetic resonance (MR) imaging findings and histologically verified invasion of the cavernous sinus by tumor cells was studied in 26 patients treated surgically for pituitary adenoma. Dural invasion of the sellar floor by tumor cells was found in 10 cases (38%). All patients were classified according to MR imaging findings into three types. Type I showed a gadolinium-enhanced stripe medial to the carotid artery (5 patients), none of which showed dural invasion. Type II showed no enhanced stripe (17 patients), six of which showed dural invasion. Within this type, tumor size and dural invasion showed no correlation. Type III showed displacement or encasement of the carotid artery by the tumor with or without extracranial extension (4 patients), all of which showed massive infiltration of the tumor cells into the dura mater. This study shows that preoperative MR imaging can provide information for assessment of invasion into the cavernous sinus in patients with pituitary adenoma. (author).