Local cerebral blood volume (CBV) has been measured previously with inhaled 11CO and positron emission tomography (PET). The model used assumes that equilibrium in tracer concentration has occurred between arterial and systemic venous blood before the PET measurement is made. To verify that this model may be used with the much shorter half-lived C15O, we have simultaneously measured arterial and venous blood radioactivity following C15O inhalation. Equilibrium occurred 95 +/- 39 s after inhalation (n = 7). If the PET measurement is commenced prior to arteriovenous equilibrium, significant errors occur in calculated CBV. These data indicate that C15O may be used as a tracer for CBV measurement provided that emission data collection commences at approximately 120 s after inhalation. Strict quality control measures must be maintained to minimize the contamination of administered C15O with 15O-labeled CO2.