The diagnostic efficacy of fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography (CT) for acute subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) were compared and the problems with diagnosis were investigated in 81 patients with aneurysmal SAH within 24 hours after onset who underwent FLAIR imaging and CT on admission. The number of hematomas in the cisterns and ventricles were evaluated by clot scores. In addition, the frequency of undetected hematomas was calculated for the cisterns and ventricles. Clot scores were significantly higher for FLAIR imaging than for CT in the lateral sylvian, quadrigeminal, and convexity cisterns. On the other hand, clot scores were significantly higher for CT than for FLAIR imaging in the interhemispheric and medial sylvian cisterns. The overall frequency of undetected SAH was 2% for FLAIR imaging and 14% for CT. With the exception of the interhemispheric and medial sylvian cisterns, the frequency of undetected SAH was higher for CT than for FLAIR imaging. In this study, FLAIR imaging was more sensitive than CT for the detection of acute SAH within 24 hours after onset. However, the diagnostic efficacy of FLAIR imaging was reduced in comparatively tight cisterns.