Optic neuritis is often the first manifestion of multiple sclerosis (MS). Sixteen patients with acute optic neuritis and one patient with benign intracranial hypertension (BIH) were investigated by magnetic resonance imaging, using a chemical shift selective double spin echo sequence. In 3 of the 16 patients, abnormalities were seen. In one patient with bilateral symptoms, signal hyperintensity and swelling of the right side of the chiasm were found. In another patient the optic nerve was found diffusely enlarged with only a marginally increased signal in the second echo. In the third patient an area of signal hyperintensity and swelling was seen in the left optic nerve. In the patient with BIH the subarachnoid space which surrounds the optic nerves was enlarged. Even using this refined pulse sequence, avoiding the major artefact in imaging the optic nerve, the chemical shift artefact, lesions were only shown in 3/16 (19%) of the patients with optic neuritis. Nevertheless, the presented chemical shift selective double spin echo sequence may be of great value for detection of retrobulbar lesions.