High-resolution CT scans of the brain and posterior fossa were performed on 106 phenytoin (PHT)- treated epileptics, 28 de novo epileptics and 43 control subjects. A higher incidence of cerebellar and brainstem (CBS) atrophy was observed in chronic PHT- or PHT+ phenobarbital-treated epileptics compared to the two other groups. Some control subjects and de novo epileptics presented mild CBS atrophy, whereas moderate to severe atrophy was noted exclusively in chronically-treated patients. In attempting to delineate the etiology of CBS atrophy, epileptic patients were divided in three groups: 55 subjects with normal CT scans, 30 with both cerebral and CBS atrophy, and 49 with pure CBS atrophy. Their ages, length of illness, number of generalized seizures, number of other seizures, and amount of PHT received during their lifetime were assessed. Statistical analysis revealed that posterior fossa atrophy in epileptics was significantly correlated with both the length of the illness and the amount of PHT ingested during the patient's lifetime. The number of seizures appears to not be related to CBS atrophy.