Transcranial Doppler ultrasonography was used to evaluate serially the changes in middle cerebral artery blood flow velocity (MCAV) in 37 consecutive patients during the first 72 h after carotid endarterectomy to identify factors that may predispose towards postoperative hyperaemia. Within 6 h of endarterectomy, median MCAV in the operated hemisphere was 48 per cent (95 per cent confidence interval 37-60 per cent) above that on admission and remained 27 per cent (95 per cent confidence interval 19-37 per cent) higher at 72 h. There was a similar, but less marked, increase in MCAV in the contralateral middle cerebral artery during the same time period. There was no association between the postoperative increase in MCAV and clinical presentation, admission MCAV, the presence or absence of a residual neurological deficit or infarction on computed tomography before operation, carotid clamp time, shunt usage, internal carotid artery stump pressure or MCAV during clamping. The greatest increase in MCAV was observed in patients with internal carotid artery stenosis > or = 50 per cent and, more particularly, in those with preoperative evidence of impaired cerebrovascular reserve. In the latter patients, MCAV was 100 per cent above the admission level within 12 h of operation and was still 50 per cent raised at 72 h.