The nerve roots of the cauda equina may be visualised by contrast-enhanced CT scans and by surface-coil MRI. We have identified the pattern of anatomy from L2-L3 to L5-S1 in 10 human cadaver specimens and correlated this with anatomical dissections. Individual roots are slightly more distinct on contrast-enhanced CT than on surface-coil MRI. There is a crescentic oblique pattern of nerve roots at the lower lumbar levels which is still apparent in the more crowded proximal sections. In all cases, the axial images correlated precisely with the dissections. Current imaging modalities can help the clinical understanding and management of abnormalities in this region of the spine.