Sixteen patients were studied by multitracer positron emission tomography (PET) within 6-48 (mean of 23) h of onset of a hemispheric ischemic stroke and again 13-25 (mean of 15.6) days later. Cerebral blood flow (CBF), cerebral blood volume (CBV), cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen (CMRO2), oxygen extraction fraction (OEF), and cerebral metabolic rate of glucose (CMRglc) were measured each time by standard methods, and the sets of brain slices obtained at the two studies were matched using a three-dimensional alignment procedure. On matched brain slices, regions of interest (ROIs) for infarct and peri-infarct tissue, contralateral mirror regions, and major brain structures were outlined. In the core of infarction, blood flow and metabolism were significantly lower than in the corresponding contralateral regions at the first study, and did not change during the observation period. In the peri-infarct tissue, CMRO2 was moderately decreased at the first measurement; over time, the CMRO2 deteriorated progressively while flow did not change. When peri-infarct regions were selected on the basis of increased OEF (25 +/- 29.8% above corresponding contralateral regions) on the early scans, the CBF was significantly decreased (23 +/- 6.6%) while the CMRO2 showed only a slight difference from the mirror region. Within the observation period, the CBF improved but the CMRO2, OEF, and CMRglc deteriorated. Only in a few regions with increased OEF and slightly impaired CMRO2 was metabolism preserved close to normal values. These data from repeat PET studies in reproducibly defined tissue compartments furnish evidence of viable tissue in the border zone of ischemia up to 48 h after stroke. While this viable peri-infarct tissue exhibits some potential for effective treatment of ischemic stroke, therapeutic routines available today cannot prevent subsequent metabolic derangement and progression to necrosis. Multitracer PET studies identifying viable tissue could be of value in the development of effective treatment of ischemic stroke.