Limitations of tetrazolium salts in delineating infarcted brain

T. M. Liszczak, E. T. Hedley-Whyte, J. F. Adams, D. H. Han, V. S. Kolluri, F. X. Vacanti, R. C. Heros, N. T. Zervas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


Tetrazolium salts, histochemical indicators of mitochondrial respiratory enzymes, have been used by some pathologists to detect infarcts in myocardium. We explored the utility of this technique in detecting experimental brain infarcts and report our findings. Infarcts were produced in cats, gerbils, and rats by unilateral temporal and permanent cerebral vessel occlusion. After various time periods the animals were killed, and their brains were reacted with 2,3,5, triphenyl, 2H-tetrazolium chloride (TTC). The experimental and contralateral hemispheres were examined by light and electron microscopy. The TTC-stained tissue was correlated with histology. In some situations the histological condition of the tissue correlated well with the TTC staining results. Brain regions supplied by temporarily occluded vessels and judged infarcted by light and electron microscopy did not stain. In these regions less than 6% of the mitochondria were intact. In brain tissue from animals with permanent vessel occlusion (no reflow) mitochondria were intact despite the fact that other cellular organelles, such as nuclei, were destroyed. TTC stained such mitochondria and as a result could not distinguish infarcted brain in complete ischemia situations (no reflow). Another draw back to this staining procedure was 36 h after infarction macrophages with intact mitochondria would replace damage neurons and be stained. Under ideal conditions though this technique can detect irreversibly damaged brain as early as 2.5 h after artery occlusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)150-157
Number of pages8
JournalActa neuropathologica
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1984
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain
  • Delineation
  • Histochemical
  • Infarcted

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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