The aim of this study was to assess blood flow in the middle cerebral artery (MCA) according to age, gender, and side. Eighty-eight subjects without carotid obstruction were measured for mean velocity, vessel area, and volume flow rates of both MCA with phase-contrast MR. A high-resolution sequence with a matrix of 300 x 512 and a double oblique localizing strategy was used for measurement. A mean velocity of 33 +/- 6.8 cm/s, a mean vessel area of 6.2 +/- 1.2 mm2 and a mean flow rate of 121 +/- 28 ml/min were measured in the MCA. Lower volume flow rates were seen in subjects aged over 50 years (p < 0.01). When comparing women with men, a lower vessel area (p < 0.05) of the MCA was counterbalanced by a higher velocity, resulting in no significant difference of the volume flow rate. No difference occurred between the right and the left side. Flow reduction occurs in the elderly. A lower vessel area of the MCA in women is compensated by a higher velocity.