Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) is a new magnetic resonance imaging technique that detects the tiny random movements of water molecules (diffusion) in tissues. This technique allows a map of the average apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) to be calculated. Shortly after the onset of an ischemic stroke, the ADC of brain tissue is significantly reduced because of cytotoxic edema. Over several days, the rapid initial drop in ADC is followed by a return to "pseudonormal" values at approximately 1 week. Subsequently, elevated ADC values are seen at chronic time points. DWI is remarkably sensitive in detecting and localizing acute ischemic brain lesions and allows differentiation of acute regions of ischemia from chronic infarcts. Recent studies have shown a high correlation between the volume of early DWI lesions and clinical neurologic outcome. In addition, the volume of the early DWI lesion correlates well with final infarct volume as measured by T2-weighted imaging. Therefore, this technique may facilitate optimal selection of patients for new medical therapies for stroke and may provide a highly sensitive technique for evaluating the efficacy of new treatments.