We have studied the results of carotid occlusion in the treatment of giant intracavernous carotid artery (ICA) aneurysms in 40 patients. Clinical, angiographic, Doppler and cerebral blood flow (CBF) criteria for tolerance of occlusion are discussed. The patients had headaches (47.5%), cranial nerve compression (87.5%), decreased visual acuity (20%), ruptured aneurysm (15%) and 5% were asymptomatic. Balloon occlusion tests were performed under light sedation anaesthesia: a successful test required perfect clinical tolerance and adequate angiographic collateral circulation in arterial, parenchymatous, and venous phases. Additional criteria included xenon 133 CBF measurements, and transcranial Doppler sonography of the middle cerebral artery. According to these criteria, 5 patients did not tolerate test occlusion and required an extra-intracranial (EC-IC) bypass. Mean follow-up was 4.7 years. All patients were radiologically cured of their aneurysm, and in 35 the symptoms resolved, although 3 had persistent ocular motor nerve palsies, and in 4 visual defects were unchanged. Complications were 1 permanent and 3 transient neurological deficits. Balloon occlusion of the ICA is an effective, reliable form of treatment for intracavernous giant aneurysm and should replace surgical ligation of the cervical carotid artery. With CBF or Doppler monitoring, the risk of neurological deficit is diminished. EC-IC bypass prior to ICA occlusion is indicated if test occlusion is not tolerated.