Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging confirms marked neuroprotective efficacy of albumin therapy in focal cerebral ischemia.

Belayev L, Zhao W, Pattany PM, Weaver RG, Huh PW, Lin B, Busto R, Ginsberg MD.

Stroke 1998 Dec;29(12):2587-99

BACKGROUND and PURPOSE: We have recently shown high-dose human serum albumin therapy to confer marked histological protection in experimental middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAo). We have now used diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DWI) in conjunction with morphological methods to expand our understanding of this therapeutic approach. METHODS: Physiologically controlled Sprague-Dawley rats received 2-hour MCAo by the modified intraluminal suture method. Treated rats received 25% human serum albumin solution (1% by body weight) immediately after the MCA was reopened. Vehicle-treated rats received saline. Computer-based image averaging was used to analyze DWI data obtained 24 hours after MCAo and light-microscopic histopathology obtained at 3 days. In a matched series, plasma osmolality and colloid oncotic pressure, as well as brain water content, were determined. RESULTS: Albumin therapy, which lowered the hematocrit on average by 37% and raised plasma colloid oncotic pressure by 56%, improved the neurological score throughout the 3-day survival period. Within the ischemic focus, the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) computed from DWI data declined by 40% in vehicle-treated rats but was preserved at near-normal levels (8% decline) in albumin-treated rats (P<0.001). Albumin also led to higher ADC values within unlesioned brain regions. Histology revealed large consistent cortical and subcortical infarcts in vehicle-treated rats, while albumin therapy reduced infarct volume at these sites, on average, by 84% and 33%, respectively. Total infarct volume was reduced by 66% and brain swelling was virtually eliminated by albumin treatment. Microscopically, while infarcted regions of vehicle-treated rats had the typical changes of pannecrosis, infarcted zones of albumin-treated brains showed persistence of vascular endothelium and prominent microglial activation, suggesting that albumin therapy may help to preserve the neuropil within zones of residual infarction. CONCLUSIONS: These findings confirm the striking neuroprotective efficacy of albumin therapy in focal cerebral ischemia and reveal that this effect is associated with DWI normalization and a mitigation of pannecrotic changes within zones of residual injury.