BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The early time course after acute stroke of cerebral N-acetylaspartate, creatine and phosphocreatine, and compounds containing choline was studied in vivo by means of localized water-suppressed proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
METHODS: Eight patients with acute stroke were studied serially in the acute phase, 1 week after, and 2-4 weeks after the onset of clinical symptoms. Ten healthy volunteers served as controls. A stimulated echo (STEAM) sequence was used for measurement of the brain metabolites in a volume of interest located within the infarcted area as visualized by magnetic resonance imaging. For quantification, the unsaturated water signal was used as the internal standard. Regional cerebral blood flow in the infarcted area was measured relative to a symmetrically located unaffected area by means of single-photon emission computed tomographic scanning, using 99mTc-labeled d,l-hexamethylenepropyleneamine oxime as the flow tracer.
RESULTS: Relative regional cerebral blood flow was considerably reduced in the infarcted area in the acute phase. After 1 week, hyperemia was seen in all but one patient. The N-acetylaspartate content was significantly reduced, with the loss appearing to occur between 6 and 24 hours after the stroke incident. The reduction in N-acetylaspartate content was greater in the central part than in the peripheral part of the infarcted area. Creatine and phosphocreatine were also reduced in the infarcted area, whereas no significant change was seen in the choline content.
CONCLUSIONS: Assuming that N-acetylaspartate content reflects neuronal survival or loss, our results may suggest that treatment procedures with restoration of blood flow to severely ischemic areas should be initiated within the first 6 hours after stroke onset.