Object. The goals of this study were to determine the effects of delaying induction of mild hypothermia (33°C) after transient focal cerebral ischemia and to ascertain whether the neuroprotective effects of mild hypothermia induced during the ischemic period are sustained over time.
Methods. In the first study, rats underwent 2 hours of middle cerebral artery (MCA) occlusion. Animals in one group were maintained under normothermic conditions (N group, 23 rats) throughout the period of ischemia and reperfusion. Rats in four additional groups were exposed to 2 hours of hypothermia, which commenced at ischemia onset (H0 group, 11 rats) or with delays of 90 (H90 group, 10 rats), 120 (H120 group, 10 rats), or 180 (H180 group, five rats) minutes, and allowed to survive for 3 days. In the second study, animals underwent 1.5 hours of MCA occlusion and were maintained under normothermic (48 rats) or hypothermic (44 rats) conditions during the ischemia period, after which they survived for 3 days, 1 week, or 2 months. All animals were evaluated for neurological findings at 24 hours and 48 hours postischemia and before they were killed. Regions of infarct were determined by examining hematoxylin and eosinstained brain slices obtained at six coronal levels.
Conclusions. Mild hypothermia conferred significant degrees of neuroprotection in terms of survival, behavioral deficits, and histopathological changes, even when its induction was delayed by 120 minutes after onset of MCA occlusion (p < 0.05) compared with normothermic conditions. Furthermore, the neuroprotective effect of mild hypothermia (2-hour duration) that was induced during the ischemia period was sustained over 2 months. These studies lend further support to the use of mild hypothermia in the treatment of stroke.