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Treatment of some tumors and aneurysms of the skull base may require internal carotid artery (ICA) sacrifice. Preoperatively to determine the dependence of the cerebral blood flow on a particular vessel, we perform a balloon test occlusion (BTO) by temporarily occluding the vessel in an awake patient. During occlusion, clinical evaluations and cerebral blood flow measurements are assessed. We have performed 300 BTOs. Eleven patients (3.7%) have had complications. Six (2%) were asymptomatic dissections. Five (1.7%) had neurologic deficits that persisted beyond the test period. Of these five, one was back to baseline in less than 24 hours, one recovered completely in a week, and one (0.33%) had a minimal but persistent dysphasia. These latter three cases are unexplained but might have resulted from unrecognized dissections or embolic events. Finally, one patient with a persistent deficit required energency surgery for reasons unrelated to the BTO and was therefore difficult to assess, and one required emergency middle cerebral artery embolectomy and repair of the dissection. The preoperative knowledge of carotid dependence in cases in which the ICA is at risk is essential, since vascular grafts or alternative surgical approaches are necessary in patients unable to tolerate carotid sacrifice. Since approximately 15 to 20% of the population falls into this category, a preoperative BTO appears justified.