Positron emission tomography with the oxygen-15 steady state or bolus inhalation technique was used to provide quantitative values of regional cerebral blood flow (CBF), oxygen extraction ratio (OER) and oxygen consumption (CMRO2) in 25 patients with partial complex seizures during the interictal state and in 5 patients during status epilepticus. Glucose utilization (CMRglu) was also studied in one case of status epilepticus with the 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose technique (18FDG). Interictal scans showed zone(s) of hypoperfusion and hypometabolism without significant variation of the OER in approximately 80% of patients. In 62%, there was a strong correlation between the overall EEG localization and the area(s) of hypoperfusion and hypometabolism. In all cases, ictal scans revealed a focal or multifocal increase in CBF and CMRO2. The localization of the most affected regions correlated well with the spatial distribution of the electroencephalograph (EEG) abnormalities. Comparison of the different values of CBF, CMRO2, and OER showed that the increase in perfusion always exceeded that of oxygen consumption and hence was accompanied by a significant decrease of OER; the latter was always the most prominent in the region of the epilepticus focus determined by serial EEG recordings. These results showed that the supply of oxygen by blood flow is large enough to meet metabolic demand. When comparing these values with CMRglu, it appeared that the relative changes in CMRglu and CBF were very similar, indicating that the increase in blood flow correlated with the enhancement in glucose utilization. The observed imbalance between blood flow, glucose utilization, and oxygen consumption could suggest that an impairment of oxygen utilization by the mitochondria could occur in the epileptic focus during prolonged status epilepticus.