We prospectively analysed treatment results in patients with severe subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) who underwent early aneurysm surgery, and were managed by dehydration therapy. We studied a total of 31 patients with poor-grade SAH including 18 in grade IV, and 13 in grade V according to the WFNS classification system. Patients who were older than 70 years of age, or those with an intracerebral haemorrhage or absent brainstem response were excluded from this study. At surgery, clot evacuation from the peri-brainstem cisterns with/without external decompression was performed following obliteration of the aneurysmal neck. In the early postoperative period, patients were maintained in negative water balance using osmotic diuretics. When delayed ischaemic deficits had manifested themselves, the pulmonary wedge pressure and/or central venous pressure was immediately increased by the rapid injection of albumin until hypovolaemia reverted to normovolaemia with the continuous administration of dobutamine. The outcome at 3 months was good recovery in 16 (52%) patients, moderate disability in 3 (10%), severe disability in 5 (16%), a vegetative state in 1 (3%), and death in 6 (19%). We though that early aneurysm surgery and postoperative dehydration therapy in the acute stages of brain oedema resulting from primary brain damage are effective in the treatment of patients with severe SAH but reversible primary brain damage.