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What is an Anoxic Brain Injury?

Anoxic Brain Injury

An anoxic brain injury occurs when the cells of the brain are deprived of oxygen. The term comes from the name “anoxia,” which means “without oxygen.” All cells, including those in the brain, require oxygen to survive. Oxygen powers nearly all functions within the cells. Without this oxygen, the cells are not able to perform the tasks that are necessary to sustain life. Therefore, the cells of the brain will start to die.

Clearly, this is a severe issue. Everyone needs to understand some of the most common causes of an anoxic brain injury. This can lead to serious complications; however, with rapid treatment, crucial brain tissue can be preserved.

The Common Causes of an Anoxic Brain Injury

Anything that causes the cells within the brain to go without oxygen will lead to this type of injury. A few common causes of oxygen deprivation within the brain include:

  • Drug Overdose or Side Effect: Drugs such as benzodiazepines, opioids, and narcotics have respiratory depression as a side effect. A drug overdose or side effects can cause someone to go unconscious and stop breathing.
  • Neck Injury: An injury to the neck in a traumatic event, such as an auto accident, can damage the trachea. If the trachea is damaged, people will have a hard time breathing, preventing oxygen to the brain.
  • Stroke: A stroke is categorized as hemorrhagic (bleeding within the brain), while others might be ischemic (a blood clot in the brain). When blood is not able to reach certain areas of the brain, oxygen ceases to flow as well.

How Long can be Brain Last Without Blood and Oxygen?

A common question that most people have is how long the brain can survive without oxygen or blood. Sadly, the answer is not very long. The exact length of time will depend on the type of injury and its severity. Some injuries completely choke off all oxygen. Other injuries might slow the flow of blood and oxygen to a mere trickle. Without oxygen, the brain can only survive for a few minutes. Because of this, any traumatic brain injury that leads to a cessation of blood and oxygen throughout the brain needs to be addressed by a trained medical professional as quickly as possible.

The Treatment of Anoxia in the Brain

The first step in treatment is to restore the flow of oxygen to the brain. This might include intubating the patient to deliver oxygen directly to the lungs or emergency brain surgery to relieve a potential clot. After this, the prognosis is going to depend on the extent of the injury.

After the initial treatment process, a comprehensive care team will get involved. This may include services such as physical therapy (to help restore mobility), occupational therapy (to help with activities of daily living), and speech therapy (who can help someone learn how to communicate once again). Some people might require only one of these services, while others might need all of them. Also, family support and mental health counseling will play a critical role. With early, rapid treatment, the prognosis can improve.

Watch YouTube Video: Anoxic Brain Injury. In the following video, Steve describes how his daughter sustained an anoxic brain injury in an accident and the types of treatment she received.

San Francisco Brain Injury Attorney

I’m Ed Smith, a San Francisco Brain Injury Attorney. An anoxic brain injury is a serious issue and might lead to permanent complications. If someone you care about is struggling following a traumatic brain injury due to another person’s negligence, you may contact me by dialing (415) 805-7284 or toll-free at (800) 404-5400.

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