The safety and efficacy of drug infusion into the carotid artery require adequate mixing of the infused solution with carotid blood. Using positron emission tomography (PET), we studied the mixing of solutions infused into the human carotid artery in seven patients by analyzing the distribution of [15O]H2O infused into the carotid artery and by vein. At four infusion rates ranging from 0.5 to 10 ml/min, the variability in distribution averaged 16.5-17.8% among the pixels in a large volume of interest, without dependence on the infusion rate. The overall correlation between [15O]H2O influx with arterial infusion and [15O]H2O influx with venous injection was 0.78-0.82 at the four infusion rates, with no trend toward higher correlations at the faster infusion rates. The distribution into the anterior, middle, and posterior cerebral artery territories differed from distribution throughout the entire carotid territory by an average of 6.2-9.6% at the four infusion rates, with no trend toward smaller differences at the faster infusion rates. Infusions performed into a vinyl tube simulating the carotid artery indicated that at 0.5 ml/min, the velocity of fluid exiting the catheter makes no apparent contribution to mixing. We conclude that with infusions at the carotid bifurcation, mixing in the human carotid artery is complete or nearly complete over a wide range of infusion rates. The mixing appears to result from the patterns of blood flow within the artery, and not from jet effects at the catheter tip.