What Is A Hypoxic Brain Injury?

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A hypoxic brain injury occurs as a result of a disruption in supply of oxygen to the brain. According to Shepherd Center hypoxic brain injuries “are brain injuries that form due to a restriction on the oxygen being supplied to the brain. The restricted flow of oxygen causes the gradual death and impairment of brain cells.” Cerebral hypoxia (brain hypoxia) defined as partial oxygen supply interruption, can cause a hypoxic brain injury. Nerve cells in the brain are highly sensitive to an interruption of oxygen supply. Although anyone is at risk of a hypoxic brain injury, there are certain risk factors that may increase one’s susceptibility. Sports and hobbies (e.g., boxing, football, swimmers, divers, mountain climbers, etc.) can increase one’s possible exposures to developing a hypoxic brain injury. Additionally, individuals that are diagnosed with medical conditions that limit the transfer of oxygen to one’s brain (e.g., hypotension, asthma, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, etc.) are at greater risk for developing cerebral hypoxia and hypoxic brain injuries. 

Causes of Brain Hypoxia

While anything that deprives the brain of oxygen could lead cerebral hypoxia, there are certain medical conditions and other known possible causes of oxygen depletion. Healthline provides the following examples of potential causes for brain hypoxia:

  • Choking
  • Suffocation
  • Electrical shock
  • Sudden cardiac arrest or heart attack
  • Drowning
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Drug use
  • Stroke
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Anesthesia complications during surgery
  • Traveling to high altitudes (above 8,000 feet)
  • Strangulation

The symptoms of brain hypoxia that lead to a hypoxic brain injury can range from mild to severe. A hypoxic brain injury can be an extremely serious condition that could lead to severe long-term physiological complications, coma, or even death. 

Signs and Symptoms

Every individual is different and the duration of time one’s cells are able to survive without oxygen is somewhat variable. There are a plethora of symptoms that could manifest as a result of a hypoxic brain injury. Some common signs and symptom associated with a hypoxic brain injury could include any combination of the following examples, provided by the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Appear disoriented
  • Labored breathing
  • Slurred words, difficulty speaking
  • Dizziness 
  • Unresponsive
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Has a bluish or grayish tint to the skin and/ or lips
  • Dilated pupils
  • Seizures
  • Convulsions 

The exact combination of signs and severity of symptoms that present in an individual with a hypoxic brain injury will largely depend on the area of the brain affected. 

For Information and Support 

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