This study evaluates the usefulness of MR angiography (MRA) in analyzing the individual collateral flow dynamics and anatomy of the circle of Willis in patients with high-grade extracranial carotid stenosis or occlusion. Selective MRA of the carotid or vertebrobasilar territory was performed by means of presaturation of up to three of the brain-supplying arteries at the level of the middle or lower neck (angled presaturation slabs). Results obtained with selective and nonselective arterial MRA in 45 consecutive patients were compared with findings at transcranial Doppler ultrasonography and intraarterial angiography, the latter serving as the "gold standard." Sensitivity of selective MRA in detecting intracranial collateral circulation via the anterior and posterior communicating artery was 95 and 97%, respectively; sensitivity in depicting extracranial to intracranial transorbital flow was lower (67%). Nonselective arterial MRA was 100% sensitive in detecting a nonfilling of the horizontal (A1) segment of the anterior cerebral artery and in identifying an origin of the posterior cerebral artery from the intracranial carotid artery. Visibility of the posterior communicating artery at MRA predicted for pathological collateral flow via this vessel in all cases. We conclude that selective and nonselective MRA of the cerebral arteries as used here is the most powerful noninvasive method to demonstrate collateral circulation via the basal communicating arteries and to identify hemodynamically relevant anatomic variants of the circle of Willis.