The possible persistence of a microvascular deficit at long time intervals after cerebral ischemia induction is not well established. In rats, we have generated in vivo maps of the regional cerebral blood volume (rCBV) at different time intervals after middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAo) with the aim to evaluate the persistence of a rCBV deficit in the damaged area or in the surrounding regions. The rats were examined by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at different time intervals, starting from the first day until three months after ischemia and postmortem histological and ultrastructural correlation was obtained. All MRI experiments were carried out using an imager-spectrometer equipped with a 4.7 Tesla magnet. To produce the susceptibility-weighted rCBV images, a suspension of superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (AMI-25) was injected to the rat. In a control group (nonoperated or sham-operated rats), a symmetrical distribution of rCBV values was found between the two hemispheres (differences between left and right cortex below 8%). In the rats with MCAo an evident vascular asymmetry was found 24 h after ischemia (differences between left and right ranging from 22 and 77%) and reduced rCBV values were evident in the ischemic areas. In a time range following the 15th day most of the rats showed a complete recovery of the lesion while only four animals still had a small residual lesion, as probed by T2-weighted (T2W) images. In three of these four cases, the reduction of rCBV in the ipsilateral cortex with respect to the contralateral was greater than 20%. Correlation was found (Y > 0.8) between late rCBV measurement and the initial volume of the lesion (hyperintense region in T2W images). The postmortem measurements correlate much better with the rCBV data than with the T2W ones. In conclusion, the present work demonstrates that cortical lesions may result in a deficit of rCBV for long periods and that a mismatch between T2w and rCBV data can be present during the repair process.
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