A method for the volumetric assessment of early cerebral infarction, together with its statistical and biological validation, is described. In halothane anaesthetised rats the stem of the right middle cerebral artery was occluded and 3 hours later (with full monitoring of respiratory and cardiovascular status) the animals were killed by perfusion fixation. In normotensive normocapnic animals the volume of infarction was 52 +/- 4 mm3 in the cerebral cortex and 21 +/- 1 mm3 in the corpus striatum. The reproducibility of the volumetric assessment was found to be excellent (coefficient of correlation 0.995 on 18 replicate measurements). The minimum number of stereotactic levels which must be assessed to yield accurate volumetric measurements of infarction is 8. The method is sensitive at detecting alterations in the amount of infarction. For example, it can readily detect the increase in amount of structural damage in cerebral cortex following a transient episode of hypotension. This approach allows an objective assessment of drug therapy and management strategies in the treatment of cerebral infarction.
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