The occlusion of the middle cerebral artery was used as an experimental acute stroke model in 30 cats. The diffusion of water was followed by diffusion-sensitized MRI between 1 and 15 h after induction of stroke. It is demonstrated that images representing the trace of the diffusion tensor provide a much more accurate delineation of affected area than images representing the diffusion in one direction only. The reason is that the strong contrast caused by the anisotropy and orientation of myelin fibers is completely removed in the trace of the diffusion tensor. The trace images show a small contrast between white and gray matter. The diffusion coefficient of white matter is decreased in acute stroke to approximately the same extent as gray matter. It is further shown that the average lifetime of water in extra and intracellular space is shorter than 20 ms both for healthy and ischemic tissue indicating that myelin fibers are permeable to water. The anisotropy contrast did not change before or after induction of stroke, nor after sacrifice. Together, these observations are consistent with the view that the changes in water diffusion during acute stroke are directly related to cytotoxic oedema, i.e., to the change in relative volume of intra- and extracellular spaces. Changes in membrane permeability do not appear to contribute significantly to the changes in diffusion.