OBJECTIVE We investigated the effect of periventricular and deep white matter lesions (DWMLs) on outcome after cerebrospinal fluid shunting in a prospective series of elderly patients with idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus. METHODS White matter lesions were assessed with T2-weighted magnetic resonance scans according to a standard protocol in 41 patients with idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus of the elderly who underwent subsequent shunting. In all patients, the diagnosis of idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus had been established preoperatively by clinical and diagnostic investigations. RESULTS At a mean follow-up of 16 months, clinical improvement was observed in 37 of 41 patients (90%). There was no persistent morbidity related to surgery. The degree of overall clinical improvement was negatively correlated with the extension of periventricular lesions (correlation coefficient r = -0.324 [P = 0.04]) and DWMLs (correlation coefficient r = -0.373 [P = 0.02]). This negative correlation was also noted when the analysis was conducted separately for each of the cardinal symptoms (gait disturbance, cognitive impairment, and urinary incontinence). There was no consistent pattern of periventricular and DWMLs in the four patients who failed to respond to shunting. CONCLUSION Periventricular and DWMLs of varying degrees are common findings on magnetic resonance scans of patients with idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus of the elderly. After careful preoperative selection of patients with idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus, individuals with DWMLs suggestive of concomitant vascular encephalopathy may also benefit from cerebrospinal fluid diversion. Although, in general, the degree of improvement depends on the severity of periventricular and DWMLs, patients with more extensive WMLs still may derive clinical benefit from the operation.