[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)is a useful modality for the evaluation of rectal cancer, providing superior anatomic/pathologic visualization when compared with endorectal ultrasound (EUS) and computed tomography (CT). Preoperative MRI is useful for tissue characterization and tumor staging, which determines the surgical approach and need for neoadjuvant/adjuvant therapy. Important prognostic factors include the circumferential resection margin (CRM), T and N stages, and extent of local invasion. Postoperative MRI to assess the extent of tumor recurrence enables early resection, which can greatly prolong survival. MRI criteria for local recurrence include T2 hyperintensity, early dynamic rim enhancement, and nodular morphology. Future research in MRI of rectal cancer is geared toward developing optimal imaging techniques including high-resolution MRI, whole-body scans, and parallel imaging; imaging of lymph nodes by MR lymphography; and response to therapy using diffusion/perfusion-weighted MR and functional imaging.