Hardware and software for a customized system to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to noninvasively monitor laser-induced interstitial thermal therapy of brain tumors are reported. An open-configuration interventional MRI unit was used to guide optical fiber placement and monitor the deposition of laser energy into the targeted lesion. T1-weighted fast spin echo and gradient echo images were used to monitor the laser tissue interaction. The images were transferred from the MRI scanner to a customized research workstation and were processed intraoperatively. Newly developed software enabled rapid (27-221 ms) availability of calculated images. A case report is given showing images which reveal the laser-tissue interaction. The system design is feasible for on-line monitoring of interstitial laser therapy. © 1998 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.