OBJECTIVES: To compare the sensitivity of fast spin echo (FSE) and of fast fluid attenuated inversion recovery (fast FLAIR) in detecting spinal cord lesions in multiple sclerosis. METHODS: With a 1.5 Tesla machine and a multicoil receiver array, FSE images (with two different pixel sizes) and fast FLAIR images of the spinal cord were obtained from 13 patients with multiple sclerosis. RESULTS: Twenty three lesions (10 cervical, 12 thoracic, and one lumbar) were found in seven patients (54%) using FSE with the larger pixel size. Seventeen lesions (seven cervical and 10 thoracic) were detected in the same seven patients using FSE with smaller pixel size. Nine lesions (five cervical and four thoracic) were found using fast FLAIR in six patients (46%). All the lesions found using fast FLAIR were detected using the other two techniques and all the lesions detected by FSE with smaller pixel size were detected using FSE and greater pixel size. CONCLUSION: Fast FLAIR sequences detect substantially fewer cord lesions in patients with multiple sclerosis.