A practical method has been developed that, using 11CO2 and positron emission tomography (PET), computes and maps (a) "effective pH" (pHt), a weighted average of intra- and extracellular pH, and (b) "clearance" (K1), product of blood flow and 11CO2 extraction. This method, together with measurements of cerebral blood flow (CBF) and oxygen extraction fraction (OEF), was applied to 12 patients with cerebral ischemia or stroke. The regional K1 was positively correlated with CBF (n = +0.78). The k1/CBF ratio, representing the extraction fraction ratio of 11CO2 to H2 15O, was negatively correlated with CBF (r = -0.54), suggesting that 11CO2 extraction decreases as flow increases. In five acute stroke patients within 2 days of onset, the injured cortex had lower CBF (20.6 ml/min/100 g), higher OEF (78.1%), and lower pHt (6.96) than the contralateral cortex (CBF = 41.4 ml/min/100 g, OEF = 53.3%, pHt = 7.00), suggesting intracellular acidosis with intact cell membranes. In three stroke patients 5-8 days after onset, the injured cortex had higher CBF (60.9 ml/min/100 g), lower OEF (32.0%), and higher pHt (7.12) than the contralateral cortex (CBF = 45.3 ml/min/100 g, OEF = 58.0%, pHt = 7.06), which suggested an increase in extracellular volume compartment reflecting loss of cell membrane integrity. This method provides information on the regional tissue acid-base status and cell membrane integrity, which may be prognostic of tissue viability.