Near-infrared spectroscopy was used to monitor changes in the cerebral oxygenation state in 13 patients during carotid endarterectomy. Variations in the levels of the chromophores (oxygenated hemoglobin (HbO2), deoxygenated hemoglobin (Hb), and oxidized cytochrome (CytO2)), and the total hemoglobin content (tHb) were compared with changes in middle cerebral artery flow velocity measured using transcranial Doppler ultrasonography. Of eight patients who showed a fall in flow velocity on application of the internal carotid artery cross-clamp, seven demonstrated a rapid and closely correlated fall in HbO2 signal, and an increase in Hb. Levels of CytO2 and tHb remained unchanged. During endarterectomy, recovery of the HbO2 and Hb levels toward preclamp baseline values occurred in three of these patients. Intraoperative shunts accelerated recovery of HbO2 and Hb signals in two of three individuals. Release of the internal carotid cross-clamp resulted in a rapid increase in HbO2 and decrease in Hb signal in those patients in whom spontaneous recovery had not occurred; in five instances, a hyperemia evolved with raised flow velocity and HbO2 to above baseline values. Cross-clamping and subsequent reperfusion of the external carotid artery had no effect on any parameter measured. The authors conclude that near-infrared spectroscopy can register changes in cerebral oxygenation during carotid endarterectomy without significant contamination from extracranial tissues.