The ultrastructural features of cerebral contusion seen three hours to 11 days after head injury were studied in 18 patients undergoing surgery. Massive astrocytic swelling ("cytotoxic" oedema) was seen three hours to three days after injury, maximal in perivascular foot processes, and compressing some of the underlying capillaries. The tight junctions were not disrupted. Neuronal damage was most marked three to 11 days after injury. The pathophysiological mechanisms leading to oedema formation and neuronal degeneration are discussed.
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