We performed MRI of brain and spinal cord on 80 patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Using multi-array coils and fast spin echo, 139 intrinsic lesions were identified in 59 patients (74%). Lesions were more common in the cervical than in the thoracic cord. Cross-sectional areas of the cord, measured from axial images at four levels, showed atrophy in 40%. Clinical disability correlated with cord atrophy but not with cord lesion load. These results show that the use of multi-array coils and fast spin echo allows rapid and sensitive detection of spinal cord lesions in MS and that the cord is involved in the majority of patients. A lack of association between cord lesions and disability may relate to limitations in MR resolution but also suggests that the mechanisms of disability in MS are complex and multifactorial.