We present a theoretical overview and a performance evaluation of a novel z-sampling technique for multidetector row CT (MDCT), relying on a periodic motion of the focal spot in the longitudinal direction (z-flying focal spot) to double the number of simultaneously acquired slices. The z-flying focal spot technique has been implemented in a recently introduced MDCT scanner. Using 32 x 0.6 mm collimation, this scanner acquires 64 overlapping 0.6 mm slices per rotation in its spiral (helical) mode of operation, with the goal of improved longitudinal resolution and reduction of spiral artifacts. The longitudinal sampling distance at isocenter is 0.3 mm. We discuss in detail the impact of the z-flying focal spot technique on image reconstruction. We present measurements of spiral slice sensitivity profiles (SSPs) and of longitudinal resolution, both in the isocenter and off-center. We evaluate the pitch dependence of the image noise measured in a centered 20 cm water phantom. To investigate spiral image quality we present images of an anthropomorphic thorax phantom and patient scans. The full width at half maximum (FWHM) of the spiral SSPs shows only minor variations as a function of the pitch, measured values differ by less than 0.15 mm from the nominal values 0.6, 0.75, 1, 1.5, and 2 mm. The measured FWHM of the smallest slice ranges between 0.66 and 0.68 mm at isocenter, except for pitch 0.55 (0.72 mm). In a centered z-resolution phantom, bar patterns up to 15 lp/cm can be visualized independent of the pitch, corresponding to 0.33 mm longitudinal resolution. 100 mm off-center, bar patterns up to 14 lp/cm are visible, corresponding to an object size of 0.36 mm that can be resolved in the z direction. Image noise for constant effective mAs is almost independent of the pitch. Measured values show a variation of less than 7% as a function of the pitch, which demonstrates correct utilization of the applied radiation dose at any pitch. The product of image noise and square root of the slice width (FWHM of the respective SSP) is the same constant for all slices except 0.6 mm. For the thinnest slice, relative image noise is increased by 17%. Spiral windmill-type artifacts are effectively suppressed with the z-flying focal spot technique, which has the potential to maintain a low artifact level up to pitch 1.5, in this way increasing the maximum volume coverage speed that can be clinically used.