Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy has proved to be useful for monitoring a number of metabolites in cerebral infarction. Combined magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy investigations were carried out in 14 patients with a recent ischaemic stroke (< 1 week); follow-up examinations were performed from day 28 to day 252 after stroke. The aim of this study was to assess the correlation between the changes of N-acetyl-aspartate, choline, creatine-phosphocreatine, lactate and clinical evolution measured by the Scandinavian Neurological Scale (SNS). Initially the lactate magnetic resonance signal was present in all patients and the other metabolite contents were significantly reduced (P < 0.001; unpaired t-test) as compared with those on the contralateral side. Spearman's rank correlation test showed a positive correlation between the initial reduction of N-acetyl-aspartate content and the SNS (P < 0.05), and between the final N-acetyl-aspartate content and the SNS (P < 0.001). Our results suggest that serial examination in stroke patients may provide further prognostic information and encourage controlled clinical studies.