The purpose of this study was to determine the usefulness of magnetic resonance (MR) arthrography for diagnosing adhesive capsulitis. Shoulder MR images of 28 patients with (n=14) and without (n=14) adhesive capsulitis were retrospectively analyzed. MR images were assessed for capsule and synovium thickness as well as the width of the axillary recess on oblique coronal fat-suppressed T1-weighted images and T2-weighted images, respectively. On oblique sagittal fat-suppressed T1-weighted images, the width of the rotator interval and the presence of abnormal tissue in the interval were evaluated. Significant differences were found between the two groups in capsule and synovium thickness on both sides of the recess on oblique coronal T2-weighted images (P=0.000), whereas thickness on the humeral aspect showed no significant difference on oblique coronal fat-suppressed T1-weighted images (P=0.109). On oblique coronal T2-weighted images, a cut-off value of 3-mm thickness gave the highest diagnostic accuracy for adhesive capsulitis with sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of 79% (11/14), 100% (14/14), and 89% (25/28) at the humeral side and 93% (13/14), 86% (12/14), and 89% (25/28) at the glenoid side, respectively. There were significant differences in rotator interval width, presence of abnormal tissue in the rotator interval, and axillary recess width between the two groups (P<0.05). Thickness of capsule and synovium of the axillary recess greater than 3 mm is a practical MR criterion for diagnosing adhesive capsulitis when measured on oblique coronal T2-weighted MR arthrography images without fat suppression. The presence of abnormal tissue in the rotator interval showed high sensitivity but rather low specificity.