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Keywords:

  • brain plasticity;
  • brain protection;
  • brain repair;
  • ischemic stroke

Stroke is not only a leading cause of death worldwide but also a main cause of disability. In developing countries, its burden is increasing as a consequence of a higher life expectancy. Whereas stroke mortality has decreased in developed countries, in Latin America, stroke mortality rates continue to rise as well as its socioeconomic dramatic consequences. Therefore, it is necessary to implement stroke care and surveillance programs to better describe the epidemiology of stroke in these countries in order to improve therapeutic strategies. Advances in the understanding of the pathogenic processes of brain ischemia have resulted in development of effective therapies during the acute phase. These include reperfusion therapies (both intravenous thrombolysis and interventional endovascular approaches) and treatment in stroke units that, through application of management protocols directed to maintain homeostasis and avoid complications, helps to exert effective brain protection that decreases further cerebral damage. Some drugs may enhance protection, and besides, there is increasing knowledge about brain plasticity and repair mechanisms that take place for longer periods beyond the acute phase. These mechanisms are responsible for recovery in certain patients and are the focus of basic and clinical research at present. This paper discusses recovery strategies that have demonstrated clinical effect, or that are promising and need further study. This rapidly evolving field needs to be carefully and critically evaluated so that investment in patient care is grounded on well-proven strategies.