Consecutive light microscopy, scanning-transmission electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy of traumatic human brain oedema and ischaemic brain damage


  • Orlando J. Castejón
  • H. V. Castejón
  • M. Díaz
  • A. Castellano


light microscope, scanning-transmission electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, nerve cells, blood-brain barrier


Cortical biopsies of 11 patients with traumatic brain oedema were consecutively studied by light microscopy (LM) using thick plastic sections, scanning-transmission electron microscopy ((S)TEM) using semithin plastic sections and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) using ultrathin sections. Samples were glutaraldehyde-osmium fixed and embedded in Araldite or Epon. Thick sections were stained with toluidine-blue for light microscopy. Semithin sections were examined unstained and uncoated for (S)TEM. Ultrathin sections were stained with uranyl and lead. Perivascular haemorrhages and perivascular extravasation of proteinaceous oedema fluid were observed in both moderate and severe oedema. Ischaemic pyramidal and non-pyramidal nerve cells appeared shrunken, electron dense and with enlargement of intracytoplasmic membrane compartment. Notably swollen astrocytes were observed in all samples examined. Glycogen-rich and glycogen-depleted astrocytes were identified in anoxic-ischaemic regions. Dark and hydropic satellite, interfascicular and perivascular oligodendrocytes were also found.

The status spongiosus of severely oedematous brain parenchyma observed by LM and (S)TEM was correlated with the enlarged extracellular space and disrupted neuropil observed by TEM. The (S)TEM is recommended as a suitable technique for studying pathological processes in the central nervous system and as an informative adjunct to LM and TEM.