Purpose: To correlate the findings on diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance (MR) images with the cytologic and histologic findings in ischemic tissue.
Materials and methods: A photochemical model of cerebral infarction in rats was studied with diffusion- and T2-weighted MR imaging. The development of lesions was followed from 20 minutes to 5 days after the onset of ischemia. Apparent water diffusion coefficient (ADC) maps were calculated and correlated with light and electron microscopic findings.
Results: T2-weighted images clearly showed vasogenic edema but did not enable distinction between areas with cellular damage and the surrounding edematous regions. In contrast, the ADC, which was elevated in nonischemic edematous regions, was diminished in areas with histologic evidence of ischemic damage or necrosis. In the core of the infarct, the ADC became elevated when electron microscopy revealed cellular lysis.
Conclusion: Diffusion-weighted images may help ascertain the extent of cellular damage and death after stroke.