We measured the volume of the supratentorial ventricles in 39 consecutive children with myelomeningocele (MMC) and associated hydrocephalus, using a stereological method based on the Cavalieri theorem of systematic sampling. We distinguished the following groups: newborns before and after cerebrospinal fluid shunting (14), a somewhat larger group of newborns with an untreated MMC-associated hydrocephalus (25) and a group of shunted children at a mean age of 1.5 years (28). We paid special attention to the shape of the lateral ventricles, looking separately at the anterior and posterior halves. The measurements were compared with a healthy control group (10) and with children with hydrocephalus unrelated to MMC (15). The average volume ratio of the posterior to the anterior half of the lateral ventricles was 1.05 +/- 0.39 in non-hydrocephalic children, 1.11 +/- 0.55 in untreated hydrocephalic children without MMC, and 2.15 +/- 0.65 in MMC-associated hydrocephalus prior to shunting. These ratios did not change significantly after shunting. This confirms our impression that MMC-associated hydrocephalus shows a characteristic shape, with a disproportionate enlargement of the posterior part of the lateral ventricles, in clear contrast to the normal-width frontal horns. This shape is reminiscent of the fetal ventricular shape. It reveals disturbance of brain development in children with MMC, which goes beyond the classic description of the Chiari malformation.