Protective Effects and Magnetic Resonance Imaging Temperature Mapping of Systemic and Focal Hypothermia in Cerebral Ischemia

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Background and Purpose—

Hypothermia is potentially the most effective protective therapy for brain ischemia; however, its use is limited because of serious side effects. Although focal hypothermia (FH) has a significantly lower stress profile than systemic hypothermia (SH), its efficacy in ischemia has been poorly studied. We aimed to compare the therapeutic effects of each treatment on various short- and long-term clinically relevant end points.


Sprague–Dawley rats were subjected to transient (45 minutes) occlusion of the middle cerebral artery. One hour after arterial reperfusion, animals were randomly assigned to groups for treatment with SH or FH (target temperature: 32°C) for 4 or 24 hours. Lesion volume, edema, functional recovery, and histological markers of cellular injury were evaluated for 1 month after ischemic injury. Effects of SH and FH on cerebral temperature were also analyzed for the first time by magnetic resonance thermometry, an approach that combines spectroscopy with gradient-echo–based phase mapping.


Both therapeutic approaches reduced ischemic lesion volume (P<0.001), although a longer FH treatment (24 hours) was required to achieve similar protective effects to those induced by 4 hours of SH. In addition, magnetic resonance thermometry demonstrated that systemic hypothermia reduced whole-brain temperature, whereas FH primarily reduced the temperature of the ischemic region.


Focal brain hypothermia requires longer cooling periods to achieve the same protective efficacy as SH. However, FH mainly affects the ischemic region, and therefore represents a promising and nonstressful alternative to SH.

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