We investigated the accuracy of spiral computed tomography angiography (CTA) in the detection and study of intracranial aneurysms by comparing CTA with selective angiograms and surgical findings. Twenty-six patients (9 men and 17 women; mean age 53.1 +/- 1.8 years) with suspected intracranial aneurysms were submitted to CTA (1- to 2-mm slices, pitch 1:1, 24 s, RI = 1) after a conventional CT examination showing subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) in 19 cases and during neuroradiological investigations performed for other reasons in 7 cases. One hundred twenty to 150 ml iodate contrast agent (0.3-0.4 gI/ml) were injected intravenously at 5 ml/s rate and with 12- to 25-s delay calculated with a preliminary test bolus. Three-dimensional shaded surface display (3D SSD) and maximum intensity projection (MIP) reconstructions were obtained from axial images. Then, within 48 h, all patients were submitted to digital subtraction angiography (DSA), with separate assessment of CTA and DSA findings. Twenty-two aneurysms shown by CTA were confirmed at DSA and surgery (true positives), whereas the vascular lesion was not confirmed at DSA in 2 cases (false positives). The presence of intracranial aneurysms was excluded at both CTA and subsequent DSA in 7 cases (true negatives) and there were no false negatives; sensitivity was 100 %, specificity 77.8 %, and diagnostic accuracy 93.5 %. Computed tomography angiography aneurysm location was confirmed at surgery in all cases, with very high accuracy in assessing the presence of an aneurysm neck (100 %). Computed tomography angiography accurately depicted the aneurysm shape in 20 of 22 cases, but failed to depict its multilobed nature in 2 cases. The mean aneurysm diameter calculated at CTA was 0.99 +/- 0.12 cm vs 1.09 +/- 0.11 cm at surgery (p < 0.01). The present results suggest that the high sensitivity of CTA, if confirmed by further studies, might help in avoiding having to resort to arteriography after negative CTA in SAH patients.