Acute: Subtle low signal (hypointense) on T1, often difficult to see at this stage, and high signal (hyperintense) on spin density and/or T2-weighted and proton density-weighted images starting 8 h after onset; should follow vascular distribution. Mass effect maximal at 24 h, sometimes starting 2 h after onset, even in the absence of parenchymal signal changes. No parenchymal enhancement with paramagnetic contrast agent. Territorial intravascular paramagnetic contrast enhancement of “slow-flow” arteries in hyperacute infarcts; at 48 h, parenchymal and meningeal enhancement can be expected.
Infarction: focal hypodense area, in cortical, subcortical, or deep gray or white matter, following vascular territory, or watershed distribution. Early subtle findings include obscuration of gray/white matter contrast and effacement of sulci, or “insular ribbon.”
The imaging characteristics of blood on MRI can be variable: