Brain edema is a serious complication in ischemic stroke because even relatively small changes in brain volume can compromise cerebral blood flow or result in compression of vital brain structures on account of the fixed volume of the rigid skull. Literature data indicate that administration of either antagonists of the V1 vasopressin (AVP) receptor or the β1-adrenergic receptor are able to reduce edema or infarct size when administered after the onset of ischemia, a key advantage for possible clinical use. The present review discusses possible mechanisms, focusing on the role of NKCC1, an astrocytic cotransporter of Na+, K+, 2Cl- and water and its activation by highly increased extracellular K+ concentrations in the development of cytotoxic cell swelling. However, it also mentions that due to a 3/2 ratio between Na+ release and K+ uptake by the Na+,K+-ATPase driving NKCC1 brain extracellular fluid can become hypertonic, which may facilitate water entry across the blood-brain barrier, essential for development of edema. It shows that brain edema does not develop until during reperfusion, which can be explained by lack of metabolic energy during ischemia. V1 antagonists are likely to protect against cytotoxic edema formation by inhibiting AVP enhancement of NKCC1-mediated uptake of ions and water, whereas β1-adrenergic antagonists prevent edema formation because β1-adrenergic stimulation alone is responsible for stimulation of the Na+,K+-ATPase driving NKCC1, first and foremost due to decrease in extracellular Ca2+ concentration. Inhibition of NKCC1 also has adverse effects, e.g. on memory and the treatment should probably be of shortest possible duration.