Therapeutic Hypothermia for Acute Ischemic Stroke: What Do Laboratory Studies Teach Us?

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Background and Purpose—

The significance of brain temperature to outcome in cerebral ischemia is recognized. Numerous variations of depth, duration, and delay of cooling have been studied in animal models. It is important to become familiar with these studies to design appropriate clinical trials. With that in mind, a critical review of the pertinent literature is presented, taking into consideration potential limitations in translating such laboratory work to the clinical level.


Hypothermia is an especially robust neuroprotectant in the laboratory and has been shown to alter many of the damaging effects of cerebral ischemia. Most laboratory research on therapeutic cooling in cerebral ischemia has been conducted in rodent models of temporary and permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion and report the effects of mild or moderate hypothermia arranged during or after ischemia.


Intraischemic cooling vastly reduces infarct size in most occlusion models. Tissue salvage with delayed onset of cooling is less dramatic but is commonly observed when cooling is begun within 60 minutes of stroke onset in permanent and 180 minutes of stroke onset in temporary occlusion models. Prolonged postischemic cooling further enhances efficacy.


Laboratory studies have shown that intraischemic hypothermia is more protective than postischemic hypothermia and more benefit is conferred with temporary occlusion than permanent occlusion models. The efficacy of postischemic hypothermia is critically dependent on the duration and depth of hypothermia and its timing relative to ischemia.

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