We measured cerebral oxygen extraction, cerebral blood flow (CBF), and cerebral metabolic rate (CMRO2) in comatose patients during the first 60 hours after resuscitation from cardiac arrest. Each patient was studied 2 or 3 times. CBF was determined by a modification of the Kety-Schmidt method using inhaled Xenon133. Over the study period jugular venous oxygen tension and saturation rose, while the oxygen content difference between arterial and jugular venous blood fell, indicating a progressive increase in the ratio of CBF to metabolism. CBF and CMRO2 measurements confirmed this. Between 2 and 6 hours after resuscitation both measurements were severely but proportionately depressed to less than 50% of normal. After 6 hours CBF was increased disproportionately to CMRO2 so that a relative hyperemia developed and persisted for the duration of the study. Although regional inhomogeneity of flow and regional ischemia cannot be ruled out, we have found no evidence for global cerebral ischemia between 2 and 60 hours post-resuscitation as an explanation for failure of recovery. In man following cardiac arrest restoration of levels of global cerebral blood flow, which can be considered adequate relative to the depressed metabolic state of the tissue, is achieved within 2 hours of resuscitation.