Brain cells manufacture and secrete angiogenic peptides after focal cerebral ischemia, but the purpose of this angiogenic response is unknown. Because the maximum possible regional cerebral blood flow is determined by the quantity of microvessels in each unit volume, it is possible that angiogenic peptides are secreted to generate new collateral channels; other possibilities include neuroprotection, recovery/regeneration, and removal of necrotic debris. If the brain attempts to create new collaterals, microvessel density should increase significantly after ischemia. Conversely, if angiogenic-signaling molecules serve some other purpose, microvessel densities may increase slightly or not at all. To clarify, the authors measured microvessel densities with quantitative morphometry. Left middle cerebral arteries of adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were occluded with intraluminal nylon suture for 4 hours followed by 7, 14, 19, or 30 days of reperfusion. Controls received no surgery or suture occlusion. Changes in microvessel density and macrophage numbers were measured by light microscopic morphometry using semiautomated stereologic methods. Microvessel density increased only in the ischemic margin adjacent to areas of pannecrosis and was always associated with increased numbers of macrophages. Ischemic brain areas without macrophages displayed no vascularity changes compared with normal animals. These data suggest that ischemia-induced microvessels are formed to facilitate macrophage infiltration and removal of necrotic brain.