Regional cerebral blood flow after occlusion of the middle cerebral artery

Acta Neurol Scand. 1986 Apr;73(4):321-37. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0404.1986.tb03286.x.


Occlusions of the middle cerebral artery (MCA) are mostly of embolic origin (appr. 80%) and give rise to about one third of all ischemic strokes, most of these being major strokes. MCA occlusions lasting for less than 1/2 h are tolerated without occurrence of permanent tissue damage. Occlusions lasting between 1/2 h to 4-8 h lead to permanent tissue damage and neurological deficits that are proportional to the duration of occlusion. Maximal tissue damage is obtained after 4-8 h occlusion. A cerebral blood flow of 8-23 ml/100 gr/min is sufficient for cellular viability but insufficient for normal tissue function ("ischemic penumbra"). Cellular function is completely abolished in the interval 8-16 ml/100 gr/min and flow at that level is tolerated only for 1-3 h before neuronal death ensues. In the interval 18-23 ml/100 gr/min there is some functional activity although it is reduced. Experimental and clinical evidence suggests that flow in this interval may be tolerated for several days, months or even longer ("chronic ischemic penumbra"). After MCA occlusion the blood flow falls below 8 ml/100 gr/min in most cases and permanent MCA occlusion always leads to relatively large areas of frank infarction. The ischemic infarcts may be surrounded by collaterally perfused areas where the blood flow is pressure-dependent (impaired autoregulation) and quite commonly insufficient for normal neuronal function (below 23 ml/100 gr/min). Such collaterally perfused areas may include a "chronic ischemic penumbra". Emboli causing MCA occlusions commonly disintegrate and/or migrate more peripherally within the first few weeks post stroke. This leads to reperfusion and changes of ischemic infarcts into hyperemic infarcts where flow is severely increased. The vascular reactivity is completely abolished in hyperemic infarcts and the hyperemic state lasts for about two weeks. Probably, anemic infarcts are equivalent to ischemic infarcts while the hemorrhagic variety is equivalent to hyperemic infarcts. The "partial infarct" with selective neuronal necrosis occurs in experimental animals after MCA occlusions of less than four h but not after permanent MCA occlusion. The significance of partial infarction in human stroke is not clarified. The extent of irreversible tissue damage can be reduced only if therapy sets in within 4-8 h after the occlusion. If a "chronic penumbra" exists the extension of reversible tissue damage can be reduced if therapy aimed at increasing the blood flow in the penumbra sets in within weeks or even months after the stroke.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia / complications
  • Arterial Occlusive Diseases / complications
  • Arterial Occlusive Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Arterial Occlusive Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Arterial Occlusive Diseases / therapy
  • Brain Ischemia / etiology
  • Brain Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Angiography
  • Cerebral Arteries*
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / complications
  • Cerebral Infarction / etiology
  • Cerebral Infarction / pathology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Collateral Circulation
  • Differential Threshold
  • Humans
  • Hyperemia / complications
  • Necrosis
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / therapeutic use
  • Vasodilator Agents / therapeutic use


  • Vasoconstrictor Agents
  • Vasodilator Agents