Acute ischemic stroke is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in industrialized nations. The sequel of stroke ranges from mild to severe disability and even death. Since the impairment may be permanent, the costs to society from work incapacity and the need for long-term care can be high. Additionally, the burden of suffering associated with the disease may have devastating effects on individuals and families. Following the occlusion of a cerebral vessel, the full extent of the infarction may not become clinically and radiologically apparent until days after. By then, the surrounding watershed zone, or penumbra, either survives or succumbs to necrosis over time. The natural history of this "tissue at risk" is determined by two factors: the collateralization from other vascular territories and the possible occurrence of spontaneous recanalization of the occluded vessel. The current treatment options for acute ischemic stroke are aiming at an early and sustained restoration of flow to the penumbra. The effect of the treatment is therefore time-dependent and the neurologic outcome is a function of the time span between onset of symptoms and recanalization therapy as well as of the recanalization rate associated with a specific treatment. This report summarizes the results of the major trials on catheter-based interventions, either using thrombolytic drugs or novel mechanical approaches being developed to treat patients with acute ischemic stroke.