There is strong evidence indicating hemodynamic stress as an underlying cause for saccular intracranial aneurysm growth, thrombosis, and/or rupture. We examined flow fields encountered in models of cerebral aneurysms having a lateral (originating from the side of an artery, not at a branch point) geometric configuration. Shear stress and pressure gradients acting on aneurysm walls under a variety of flow and geometric conditions were evaluated. For this purpose, a two-dimensional finite-element computer model of lateral aneurysms in a steady-flow state was developed. Three idealized aneurysm shapes were studied, half-spherical, spherical, and pear-shaped. The ostium width of the cerebral aneurysm, relative to the radius of the parent artery and the Reynolds number, were also varied. Maximal shear stresses and maximum pressures (for an ostium width of 2 times the radius of the parent artery) were typically found at the downstream site of the ostium, rather than at the dome of the aneurysm. In general, the highest shear stresses and the lowest pressures (at the distal portion of the ostium) were obtained in the spherical aneurysm, whereas the lowest shear stresses and the highest pressures were found in the half-spherical aneurysm. The location of maximal stresses (shear and pressure) at the distal region of the ostium suggests that growth and/or rupture may well proceed from this point. Such findings are in contrast to the commonly held opinion that aneurysm rupture occurs at the dome. Careful pathological investigation will need to be performed to clarify this finding. The results of this preliminary investigation also indicate that the flow field in lateral aneurysms is highly dependent on a number of factors related to flow and geometric parameters. Geometry seems to be a significant mediator of local magnitudes of stress. Thus, the tendency for growth or thrombosis may be influenced by variations in size or shape.