We have performed MRI examinations to determine the water diffusion tensor in the brain of six patients who were admitted to the hospital within 12 h after the onset of cerebral ischemic symptoms. The examinations have been carried out immediately after admission, and thereafter at varying intervals up to 90 days post admission. Maps of the trace of the diffusion tensor, the fractional anisotropy and the lattice index, as well as maps of cerebral blood perfusion parameters, were generated to quantitatively assess the character of the water diffusion tensor in the infarcted area. In patients with significant perfusion deficits and substantial lesion volume changes, four of six cases, our measurements show a monotonic and significant decrease in the diffusion anisotropy within the ischemic lesion as a function of time. We propose that retrospective analysis of this quantity, in combination with brain tissue segmentation and cerebral perfusion maps, may be used in future studies to assess the severity of the ischemic event.