The authors report, for the first time, the finding by magnetic resonance imaging of a neurofibroma at the craniocervical junction with upper cervical cord and lower brainstem compression causing complete apnea from birth. Subsequent subtotal resection of the neurofibroma resulted in the successful extubation of a previously ventilator-dependent patient. After a two month period of breathing spontaneously, the newborn developed an upper respiratory tract infection and was reintubated. The patient, unable to be weaned off of the respirator, was extubated and expired shortly thereafter, at the age of five months. The authors suggest that in newborns with unexplained apnea, MRI of the craniocervical junction is indicated. Certain patients may be discovered who have less compromised cervicomedullary function and are afflicted by less aggressive forms of neurofibromatosis type 1. These patients may benefit permanently from a surgical decompression.