Cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) is conspicuous for its association with Alzheimer disease (AD) and as a cause of lobar hemorrhages in the elderly, but its role in cerebral infarction is less clear. There is evidence that CAA may also be a risk factor for ischemic infarction in AD. To further investigate CAA as a risk factor for infarction, we studied 108 cases of recent cerebral or cerebellar infarction diagnosed in tissue samples obtained from surgical material. There were 69 males and 39 females with a mean age of 52 yr (range 1-86). The majority of biopsies were obtained from the frontal and parietal lobes. Radiological studies demonstrated a lesion confined to a vascular distribution in 12 of the 17 (71%) cases examined. Microscopic sections stained with hematoxylin and eosin revealed complete, organizing infarction in 107 cases with areas of coagulative necrosis, anoxic-ischemic neuronal injury, inflammation, macrophages, vascular proliferation, gliosis, and swollen axons. One case showed an incomplete infarct. Most cases also exhibited a minor hemorrhagic component with hemosiderin and hematoidin pigments. CAA, defined as amyloid deposition in the walls of leptomeningeal and parenchymal arteries, was found by immunohistochemical stains for beta amyloid in 14 (13%) cases of complete cerebral infarct. Cortical beta amyloid plaques were found by immunohistochemistry in 19 (17%) cases. Cerebral or cerebellar tissues containing cortex and leptomeninges obtained from 136 patients with a mean age of 52 yr (range 1-85) during surgical procedures for diagnosis of primary or metastatic neoplasms and demyelinating lesions were used as age-matched controls. In this control group, CAA was found in 5 (3.7%) and beta amyloid plaques in 19 (14%). The results indicate that CAA, but not beta amyloid plaque formation, is significantly more common in patients with ischemic cerebral infarction than in age-matched controls with nonvascular lesions (odds ratio 3.8; 95% confidence interval 1.3-10.9; p < 0.01). Our results indicate that CAA is a risk factor for ischemic cerebral infarction in the population studied.