Purpose: In patients presented for spinal irradiation it may be difficult to distinguish between malignant and benign lesions if only plain X-rays and computed tomography (CT)-scans are available. Spinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be of great diagnostic value. Methods: From 11/1995 to 05/2000 447 patients were presented for spinal irradiation, 264 beyond regular operating hours. At presentation no spinal MRI was available in 170/447 and 132/264 patients. Results: After spinal MRI, diagnosis was changed from vertebral metastases to spondylodiscitis in 10/170 and 8/132 patients. Six of these patients were already known as cancer patients. Conclusion: In patients presented for spinal irradiation spondylodiscitis is not very uncommon. If there is any doubt about metastatic disease as the cause for spinal cord compression a spinal MRI has to be demanded, even beyond regular operating hours.