What is the role of cytotoxic edema in the pathogenesis of ischemic stroke?

Updated: May 27, 2020
  • Author: Edward C Jauch, MD, MS, FAHA, FACEP; Chief Editor: Helmi L Lutsep, MD  more...
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On the cellular level, the ischemic neuron becomes depolarized as ATP is depleted and membrane ion-transport systems fail. Disruption of cellular metabolism also impairs normal sodium-potassium plasma membrane pumps, producing an intracellular increase in sodium, which in turns increases intracellular water content. This cellular swelling is referred to as cytotoxic edema and occurs very early in cerebral ischemia.

Cerebral ischemia impairs the normal sodium-calcium exchange protein also found on cell plasma membranes. The resulting influx of calcium leads to the release of a number of neurotransmitters, including large quantities of glutamate, which in turn activates N -methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and other excitatory receptors on other neurons.

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