✓ Cerebral protection from an ischemic/hypoxic insult implies that tissue injury can be controlled or even prevented by certain therapeutic maneuvers. For example, physiological thresholds may be altered so that tissue vulnerability to the insult is reduced, or the intensity of an insult may be blunted by enhancing brain homeostasis. Such a therapeutic maneuver is carotid endarterectomy to improve blood flow in the disordered hemisphere. Alternatively, drugs with protective properties can be used before or even after the insult to “stabilize” injured tissue and prevent the harmful secondary effects that often follow.
Various past and present approaches to cerebral protection employing physiological, pharmacological, and surgical intervention are reviewed. The mechanisms by which each allegedly protects the brain from ischemia and hypoxia are discussed briefly. Promising, but not always successful, approaches used in the past have pointed the way for new and more rational therapies. Truly effective protection of the brain from ischemia and hypoxia depends directly upon our capability to explore basic mechanisms of injury and our willingness to measure accurately and objectively the outcome of newly developed protective measures.