The dynamic changes in microcirculation were investigated with laser Doppler flowmetry in two selected regions of interest (ROI) of a stroke lesion during ischemia and early reperfusion using a rat model of temporary middle cerebral artery (MCA) occlusion. In each ROI measurements were made either during 30 min or 2 h of MCA occlusion followed by 1 h of reperfusion. On the periphery of the MCA territory, an area of mild ischemia with a mean reduction of flow to 38% (39.9% in the group with 30 min MCA occlusion and 35.9% in the group with 2 h MCA occlusion) of preischemic values was demonstrated. Closer to the center of the MCA territory, more severe ischemia with a mean reduction of flow to 21% (19.9% in the 30-min group and 22.9% in the 2-hour group) was seen. In the two groups with laser Doppler flowmetry in the ROI of mild ischemia, a compensatory increase in flow during the first 3-6 min after MCA occlusion could be seen. All rats displayed a peak hyperperfusion immediately after re-establishing of flow which then stabilized above, below, or equal to the preischemic level. This peak hyperemia was most abundant in the group in which flow was measured in the ROI of more severe ischemia after the 30-min MCA occlusion. In the same area a short hyperemic peak was followed by a significant hypoperfusion of 60% of preischemic flow after 2 h of MCA occlusion. In the groups with flow measurements in the ROI of mild ischemia, there was a return to preischemic flow after the 30-min ischemia and a tendency of preserved hyperemia after 2 h of MCA occlusion.