- BACKGROUND: Rectal cancer constitutes about one-third of all gastrointestinal (GI) tract tumors. Because of the high recurrence rates (30%) in rectal cancer, it is vitally important to accurately stage these tumours preoperatively so that appropriate surgical resection can be undertaken. MRI is the ideal technique for the preoperative staging of these tumours. AIM: To determine the accuracy of local T staging of rectal cancer with MRI, using histopathological staging as the gold. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Forty consecutive patients admitted with rectal cancer over a period of 18 months were included in this retrospective study. MRI scans were performed prior to surgery in all patients, on 1.5T scanners. Two radiologists, with a special interest in gastrointestinal imaging reported all images. Two dedicated histopathologists reported the histology slides. The accuracy of preoperative local MRI T staging was assessed by comparison with postoperative histopathological staging. RESULTS: There was agreement between MRI and histopathology (TNM) staging in 12 patients (30%). The sensitivity and specificity of MRI for T staging was 89% and 67% respectively. The circumferential resection margin (CRM) status was accurately staged in 94.1% of the patients. CONCLUSIONS: Preoperative staging with MRI is sensitive in identifying CRM involvement, which is the main factor affecting the outcome of surgery.