In vivo echo-planar MR imaging was used to measure apparent diffusion coefficients (ADC) of cerebral tissues in a comprehensive noninvasive evaluation of early ischemic brain damage induced by occlusion of the middle cerebral artery (MCA) in a cat model of acute regional stroke. Within 10 min after arterial occlusion, ADC was significantly lower in tissues within the vascular territory of the occluded MCA than in normally perfused tissues in the contralateral hemisphere. Sequential echo-planar imaging was then used in conjunction with bolus injections of the magnetic susceptibility contrast agent, dysprosium DTPA-BMA, to characterize the underlying cerebrovascular perfusion deficits. Normally perfused regions of brain were identified by a dose-dependent 35-70% loss of signal intensity within 6-8 s of contrast administration, whereas ischemic regions appeared relatively hyperintense. These data indicate that sequential diffusion/perfusion imaging may be useful in differentiating permanently damaged from reversibly ischemic brain tissue.