Stereotactic aspiration is a valuable surgical alternative for colloid cysts when used alone or in conjunction with microsurgical resection. Since 1981, the authors have performed computerized tomography (CT)-guided stereotactic aspiration as the initial procedure in 22 patients with colloid cysts; stereotactic aspiration alone was successful in 11 patients (50%). Of the 11 patients in whom aspiration failed, stereotactic endoscopic resection was attempted in three and was successful in one. Seven patients required a craniotomy and microsurgical removal of the cyst performed via a transcortical approach. The preoperative CT appearance in eight cases of a hypodense or isodense cyst correlated favorably with successful aspiration of the cyst in six patients. A hyperdense appearance on the preoperative CT scan in 14 cases was associated with subtotal aspiration in 13 patients; five required craniotomy for removal. Preoperative magnetic resonance (MR) imaging in eight patients provided excellent anatomical definition of the cyst and its relationship to other structures of the third ventricle, but it was not possible to correlate successful aspiration with cyst appearance on MR images with short or long relaxation time sequences. The authors' 9-year experience suggests that preoperative CT studies accurately determine size, predict viscosity, and help to define a group of colloid cyst patients for whom stereotactic cyst aspiration will likely be successful. Unsuccessful stereotactic aspiration was related to two features: the high viscosity of the intracystic colloid material (nine patients), or deviation of the cyst away from the aspiration needle due to small cyst volume (two patients). Because of its simplicity and low risk, stereotactic surgery can be offered to selected patients as the initial procedure of choice. Craniotomy can be reserved for those whose imaging studies predict failure or for those whose cyst cannot be aspirated.