What is Anoxic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injury can damage the brain, but acquired brain injury can also cause permanent brain damage through anoxic brain injury. Anoxic brain injury occurs when the brain does not receive oxygen due to an interruption in blood flow or breathing, or some toxin prevents blood from being delivered to or used by the brain. The lack of oxygen results in cell death. The level of injury is determined by how long the brain is deprived of oxygen. Brain cells begin to die after four minutes. Permanent injury can take place in five minutes.

With anemic anoxia, the blood is unable to carry enough oxygen to the brain. Toxic anoxia is the result of toxins that block oxygen in the blood from being used by the body. With anoxic anoxia, no oxygen is being supplied to the brain because breathing has stopped or blood flow is impaired. Hypoxic brain injury occurs when the brain's oxygen supply is reduced, rather than cut off completely.

Anoxic brain injury is an acquired brain injury, rather than a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The brain is usually physically injured in a TBI injury when a blunt force is hit against the skull. Anoxic brain injury leads to a change in the activity of the neurons, which can produce varying types and levels of impairment. Because the brain damage occurs at a cellular level, rather than to a specific area as with traumatic brain injury, the entire brain can be affected.

Symptoms of Anoxic Brain Injury
Symptoms can be similar to those seen with traumatic brain injury, but some are seen more often, or are more pronounced, in someone with an acquired brain injury.

These can include:

* Loss of consciousness;
* Seizures;
* Memory is heavily affected as well as focus of attention;
* A longer time in a coma or vegetative state;
* Significant behavioral changes, including depression, restlessness and hostility; and
* Impaired motor control.

A mild to moderate anoxic brain injury can produce headaches, confusion, mood swings, decreased concentration and attention span.

Causes of Anoxic Brain Injury
Anoxic brain injury can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

* It can occur when being strangled or when a victim chokes, other variations of receiving this injury can occur with blunt trauma to the skull, spine or chest and it can occur in an individual with an asthma or allergic reaction attack;
* A near-drowning;
* Receiving electric shock/electrocution or being hit by lightning;
* Severe bleeding;
* Heart attack, stroke or aneurysm;
* Exposure to toxins through illegal drug use, carbon monoxide poisoning, lead poisoning, etc.; or
* Some diseases, including meningitis, tumors, hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, hepatic encephalopathy, uremic encephalopathy.

Anoxic Brain Injury: Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis typically begins with a physical exam and an interview, if the patient is conscious. Diagnostic tests such as a CT scan, MRI or EEG (electroencephalogram) may be used to determine the nature and extent of the brain damage.

Immediate treatment is to establish an airway and provide oxygen for the patient. Respiratory assistance, such as CPR or a ventilator, may be necessary. Further treatment options may include the use of barbiturates to slow down brain activity, and steroids or other medications to reduce brain swelling. Treatments to increase the amount of oxygen to the brain, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy, may be used.

An anoxic brain injury often requires a specific form of rehabilitation. Not only will the victim require behavioral and emotional counseling because of the injury but rehabilitating therapy includes physical, occupational and speech; but brain injury is rarely completely curable. Recovery can be a long process that depends on the level of damage, and is often incomplete. Rehabilitating a victim with brain damage usually is just to increase the comfort and quality of one's life while the damage is irreversible.

If you or a loved one has suffered from an anoxic brain injury or a form of traumatic brain injury, you may wish to consult with an experienced traumatic brain injury attorney. Your TBI lawyer can help you gain access to the resources you need and help you attain monetary compensation for brain injury acquired through negligence or employment.