Objective: This study was designed to determine the histopathological characteristics of cardiac and vascular lesions responsible for various subtypes of ischemic stroke.
Methods: Postmortem pathological examination was performed on 142 patients who died within 30 days of the onset of ischemic stroke in the National Cardiovascular Center, Osaka, Japan.
Results: The numbers of cases with autopsy-proven diagnoses of atherothrombotic, cardioembolic, and lacunar strokes, ischemic stroke of other determined causes, and ischemic stroke of undetermined cause were 17, 107, 2, 12, and 4, respectively. Thrombi that developed at the culprit plaques of the cerebral arteries were responsible for atherothrombotic stroke. In 70% of the cases with cardioembolic stroke, the presence of thrombi as potential embolic sources were confirmed in the heart or, in some cases, in the venous circulation of patients with patent foramen ovale and tetralogy of Fallot.
Interpretation: In most atherothrombotic strokes, fibrin- and platelet-rich thrombi of various thicknesses develop at the culprit plaques of the cerebral arteries, which are finally occluded with fibrin- and red-cell-rich thrombi (red thrombi). In most cardioembolic strokes, red thrombi generated in the heart or peripheral veins are dislodged to embolize the cerebral arteries.