The aim of this study was to evaluate the usefulness of CT of the brain in patients presenting with a psychiatric condition without focal neurological signs. The reports of 397 consecutive CT brain scans of patients presenting to two acute tertiary hospital psychiatric services over a 2-year period were assessed retrospectively. Of the 397 patients, 241 had psychosis, 87 had depression, 44 had bipolar affective disorder, seven had alcohol dependence, five had dementia, and the remaining 13 had a variety of diagnoses including personality disorder and transient ischaemic attack. Findings on 377 (95%) of the CT scans showed no abnormality. Specific abnormalities were described in 20 (5%) of the CT scans. Three scans showed non-specific minor abnormalities, which, when followed up by MRI, showed no relevant abnormality. All the abnormalities shown on CT were considered to be clinically unrelated to the patient's psychiatric condition. In conclusion, the pretest probability of finding a space-occupying lesion or other pertinent abnormality in patients presenting with psychiatric illnesses in this retrospective study appears not to be greater than that of the general population. The outcome of this study could be implemented to develop a clinical pathway for limiting assessment by CT for possible organic pathology in acute psychiatric illness.