We studied the early clinical course of 65 patients with perimesencephalic (nonaneurysmal) subarachnoid hemorrhage. None of the patients rebled; none had delayed cerebral ischemia; and only 3 patients (5%) developed clinical signs of acute hydrocephalus, 2 requiring ventricular shunting. Hyponatremia and electrocardiographic changes were found in the same proportions as in patients with aneurysmal rupture. All patients had a good outcome after 3 months. To control for the influence of the relatively small amount of cisternal blood in perimesencephalic hemorrhage on the absence of delayed cerebral ischemia, we compared these 65 patients with 49 patients who had aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage. This control group with aneurysms was selected according to a similar amount of cisternal blood, a comparable level of consciousness on admission, and absence of other factors known to increase the risk for delayed cerebral ischemia. We found that 4 of the 49 patients with aneurysmal hemorrhage developed delayed cerebral ischemia (Fisher's exact test, p = 0.03); therefore the relatively small amount of blood does not account for the absence of delayed cerebral ischemia in perimesencephalic hemorrhage. Patients with a perimesencephalic pattern of hemorrhage and a normal angiogram should be considered to have a distinct subset of subarachnoid hemorrhage and should be excluded from future treatment trials of patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage.