Reduction of functional capillary density in human brain after stroke

Albert Gjedde, Hiroto Kuwabara, Antoine M. Hakim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The blood flow of brain tissue often returns to normal after an ischemic episode. As "luxury" rather than "reactive" reperfusion, this hyperemia is associated with low metabolism. It is not known to what extent the high blood flow accompanies a high, normal, or low density of capillaries. The resolution of this question may indicate whether the functional capillary density is variable and, if so, whether it is coupled to blood flow or metabolism. To answer these questions, we defined functional capillaries as capillaries that transport glucose. We then calculated the density of functional capillaries (Dcap) and the mean time of transit of blood through the capillaries (tcap) from hemodynamic variables obtained in vivo by positron tomography of five patients afflicted by cerebral ischemic stroke. Each patient was studied twice, within 36 h of the insult and 1 week later. We identified nominally "ischemic" regions in the first study as cortical gray matter regions, contiguous with the ischemic focus, in which the magnitude of blood flow did not exceed 20 ml 100 g-1 min-1. In these regions, values of metabolism and functional capillary density were proportionately low compared with normal values obtained in the contralateral hemisphere. The studies revealed a reduction of the functional density of exchange vessels in postischemic brain tissue as soon as 36 h after the insult. In "ischemic" regions, within 36 h of the insult, the net extraction of oxygen was inversely related to the capillary transit time and appeared to be limited mainly by the low functional density of the capillaries. Contrary to expectations, the reduced density persisted, even when more than adequate perfusion of the tissue returned. For these reasons, we concluded that changes of the capillary density were associated with changes of the metabolism of the tissue rather than with blood flow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-326
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Capillaries
  • Luxury perfusion
  • Stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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