A retrospective review of colloid cysts diagnosed from 1974 to 1986 emphasizes the presenting symptoms of these lesions, their surgical management, and the contribution of modern imaging techniques to their diagnosis and therapy. In this 12-year period, 84 patients (45 men and 39 women) had a colloid cyst diagnosed. The patients' mean age was 46 years (range, 7-82 years). Surgery was performed in 55 patients, 7 of whom had undergone prior surgery elsewhere. The surgical approaches used were transfrontal-transventricular, transcallosal, computer-assisted stereotactic aspiration and resection by stereotactic craniotomy, and shunting of cerebrospinal fluid without removal of the lesion. There was no operative mortality, but complications occurred in 15 patients (27%). Preoperative imaging showed hydrocephalus in 93% of the patients: severe in 43%, moderate in 36%, and mild in 14%. In the surgically treated group, the most common presenting symptoms were headache, change in mental status, ataxia, nausea and vomiting, visual disturbance, emotional lability/inappropriate affect, depersonalization, and hypersomnolence. Twenty-four patients for whom surgery was not recommended are being followed up closely. Most of these patients had normal ventricles. The symptoms in this group included headache, anxiety/nervousness, ataxia, memory impairment, visual disturbance, and seizures. Five autopsy cases of patients with colloid cysts were available during this period and were reviewed. Direct removal of colloid cysts can be accomplished with low morbidity and mortality, avoiding the frequent revisions and complications related to shunt procedures. There is a subgroup of colloid cysts that can be operated upon electively or followed up closely with serial imaging studies.