Characterizing the target of acute stroke therapy

Marc Fisher, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Document Type Article


BACKGROUND: The development of effective therapies for acute ischemic stroke presumes the existence of potentially salvageable ischemic tissue when therapy is initiated because it is widely assumed that the effectiveness of most acute stroke therapies under development is related to reducing ultimate infarct size to promote functional improvement. Such salvageable ischemic tissue was previously labeled the ischemic penumbra and must be distinguished from irreversible injury.

SUMMARY OF REVIEW: Pathological identification of irreversibility (infarction) appears to lag behind the actual development of this condition, and reversible injury after focal ischemia should be differentiated from infarction. Imaging and biochemical markers apparently can provide clues for distinguishing potentially salvageable from irreversibly injured ischemic tissue in experimental and clinical stroke. Recent positron emission tomography and MRI studies suggest that these clinically available imaging technologies will be useful for determining the presence of ischemic penumbra in individual stroke patients. The progression from potentially reversible to irreversible injury after focal brain ischemia has many potential mechanisms that may be synergistic and vary among individuals.

CONCLUSIONS: Delineating and prioritizing these mechanisms provides the opportunity to develop multiple potential acute stroke therapies that ultimately will be used in combination, perhaps directed by imaging technology.