Positron emission tomography (PET) of brain glucose utilization is highly sensitive in detecting focal cortical abnormalities in patients with infantile spasms even when the computed tomographic (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are normal. Of 110 infants with spasms evaluated for potential surgical intervention during an 8-year period, we encountered 18 infants (7 males, 11 females; age range, 10 mo to 5 yr) with a common metabolic pattern on positron emission tomography (PET) consisting of bilateral hypometabolism in the temporal lobes. CT and MRI scans did not reveal any focal abnormalities in the 18 infants. Video-electroencephalographic monitoring indicated either bilateral or multifocal epileptogenicity, or failed to show any epileptic focus, so that none of the 18 infants were considered candidates for resective surgery. These patients were then enrolled in a prospective study aimed at determining long-term outcome in the presence of bilateral temporal PET hypometabolism. Analysis of outcome in 14 of the 18 subjects (follow-up period, 10 mo to 10 yr 5 mo; mean, 3 yr 11 mo +/- 2 yr 4 mo [SD]) revealed the following: (1) all had severe developmental delay and had failed to gain significant milestones; (2) language development had been minimal or absent; (3) 10 of the 14 met the DSM-IV criteria for autistic disorder. Our findings indicate that patients with infantile spasms and bitemporal glucose hypometabolism on PET comprise a relatively homogeneous group and are typically not candidates for cortical resection. The long-term outcome of these infants is particularly poor and the majority are autistic.