Regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF), cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen (CMRO2), intraventricular pressure, and lactate/pH levels in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) were measured in 38 patients with ruptured intracranial aneurysms between the 3rd and 13th day after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). Angiography was performed following the rCBF study and the degree of vasospasm was measured on the angiograms. The patients were graded clinically according to the system of Hunt and Hess. Cerebral vasospasm significantly influenced rCBF: global reductions and focal changes (ischemia, hyperemia, and tissue peaks) were commonly associated with vasospasm. Patients with severe diffuse spasm always had global ischemia (21 +/- 5 ml/100 gm/min), and cerebral infarctions were demonstrated subsequently, The CMRO2 was more reduced than rCBF, indicating an uncoupling between flow and metabolism. This relative luxury perfusion was associated with CSF lactic acidosis and intracranial hypertension. The arteriovenous difference of oxygen was equally reduced in all categories of patients, probably due to the primary insult of SAH. The CMRO2 decreased concomitantly with arterial caliber, indicating a secondary impairment of cerebral metabolism due to vasospasm.