Neurological deterioration is commonly seen after surgical excision of clival meningiomas; however, an understanding of the risk factors associated with postoperative deterioration can lead to improvements in outcome. In 75 patients with clival meningiomas operated on over a 7-year period, the following data were studied; preoperative variables such as presenting Karnofsky scale score, age, sex, and prior operations or radiation therapy. Radiological findings on magnetic resonance imaging or arteriography, such as the development of the arachnoidal cleavage plane between tumor and the brain stem, brainstem edema, tumor size, extent of compression on the brain stem, vascular encasement, and blood supply from the basilar artery were among other data studied. In addition, intraoperative findings such as development of the arachnoid plane, vascular encasement, and the difficulty of dissection were noted. Finally, each patient's neurological and functional statuses were recorded at 1 week postoperatively and at follow-up examinations. Early postoperative functional deterioration occurred in 45 patients (60%) and ranged from mild (30 patients) to severe (three patients). Significant improvement had occurred by the time of follow-up examination in all but four patients; however, permanent postoperative dysfunction was present in 12 patients. Statistical analysis revealed significant correlations between early functional deterioration and preoperative Karnofsky scale scores, male gender, radiological findings of the absence of an arachnoid plane, edema of the brain stem, and arteriographic supply from the basilar artery. Operative features included difficulty with dissection, an absent arachnoidal cleavage plane, and incomplete tumor resection. Permanent functional deterioration was statistically associated with the following: blood supply from the basilar artery, difficulty of dissection, incomplete tumor resection, and early postoperative dysfunction. Logistical regression analysis revealed that the most important risk factor for early postoperative deterioration was tumor size. Patients with large or giant tumors had a 6.7 to 13 times greater risk of functional deterioration, respectively, than patients with small- or medium-sized tumors. Excluding tumor size, the most important factor for permanent deterioration was blood supply from the basilar artery. Patients in this category had a 4.4 times greater risk of permanent functional deterioration. Three stages of tumor relationship to the brainstem arachnoid and pial membranes are proposed. Based on the results of this clinical study of clival meningiomas, suggestions are made for changes in the management strategy of these difficult lesions.