Diagnosis of brain death must be certain to allow discontinuation of artificial ventilation and organ transplantation. Brain death is present when all functions of the brain stem have irreversibly ceased. Clinical and electrophysiological criteria may be misinterpreted due to drug intoxication, hypothermia or technical artefacts. Thus, if clinical assessment is suboptimal, reliable early confirmatory tests may be required for demonstrating absence of intracranial blood flow. We have easily carried out and interpreted 99mTc HM-PAO SPECT in a consecutive series of 40 comatose patients with brain damage, without discontinuing therapy. Brain death was diagnosed in 7 patients, by recognising absence of brain perfusion, as shown by no intracranial radionuclide uptake. In patients in whom perfusion was seen on brain scans, HM-PAO SPECT improved assessment of the extent of injury, which in general was larger than suggested by CT.