The symptoms following sinus and vein occlusion observed in patients and experimental animals display a considerable variability that so far remains largely unexplained. In a rat cortical vein occlusion model using a photochemical thrombotic technique, we examined changes in the cerebral venous flow pattern by fluorescence angiography and regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) and cerebral blood volume fraction (CBVF) by a modern laser Doppler "scanning" technique. Brain damage was assessed histologically. Fluorescence angiographic findings fell into two groups: group A, rats with an altered venous flow pattern after occlusion (n = 12), and group B, rats with interruption of blood flow and/or a growing venous thrombus (n = 5). In addition, sham-operated animals made up group C (n = 5). Extravasation of fluorescein, a massive decrease in rCBF, a short-lasting increase in CBVF, and regional brain damage were typical for group B. In addition, cortical CBF mapping revealed a transient hyperperfusion zone with hyperemia surrounding a hypoperfused ischemic core in group B. A circulation perturbation following venous occlusion appeared near those occluded cerebral veins without sufficient collateral flow. Furthermore, the venous thrombus continued to grow, accompanied by local critical ischemia and severe brain damage. Conversely, 71% of the animals (12 of 17) tolerated occlusion of a solitary vein without major flow disturbances or histological evidence of damage to the CNS (group A).