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Stroke. 2005 Apr;36(4):797-802. Epub 2005 Mar 10.

A pilot study of normobaric oxygen therapy in acute ischemic stroke.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass 02114, USA.



Therapies that transiently prevent ischemic neuronal death can potentially extend therapeutic time windows for stroke thrombolysis. We conducted a pilot study to investigate the effects of high-flow oxygen in acute ischemic stroke.


We randomized patients with acute stroke (<12 hours) and perfusion-diffusion "mismatch" on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to high-flow oxygen therapy via facemask for 8 hours (n=9) or room air (controls, n=7). Stroke scale scores and MRI scans were obtained at baseline, 4 hours, 24 hours, 1 week, and 3 months. Clinical deficits and MR abnormalities were compared between groups.


Stroke scale scores were similar at baseline, tended to improve at 4 hours (during therapy) and 1 week, and significantly improved at 24 hours in hyperoxia-treated patients. There was no significant difference at 3 months. Mean (+/-SD) relative diffusion MRI lesion volumes were significantly reduced in hyperoxia-treated patients at 4 hours (87.8+/-22% versus 149.1+/-41%; P=0.004) but not subsequent time points. The percentage of MRI voxels improving from baseline "ischemic" to 4-hour "non-ischemic" values tended to be higher in hyperoxia-treated patients. Cerebral blood volume and blood flow within ischemic regions improved with hyperoxia. These "during-therapy" benefits occurred without arterial recanalization. By 24 hours, MRI showed reperfusion and asymptomatic petechial hemorrhages in 50% of hyperoxia-treated patients versus 17% of controls (P=0.6).


High-flow oxygen therapy is associated with a transient improvement of clinical deficits and MRI abnormalities in select patients with acute ischemic stroke. Further studies are warranted to investigate the safety and efficacy of hyperoxia as a stroke therapy.

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