Anoxic brain damage is injury to the brain due to a lack of oxygen. Brain cells without oxygen will begin to die after about four minutes.
Progression of Anoxic Brain Damage
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Oxygen is carried to the brain in the blood. Anoxic brain damage may occur if:
The following accidents and health problems increase your risk of anoxic brain damage:
Severe damage may lead to a coma or a vegetative state. Mild to moderate anoxic brain damage may cause:
Rarely there may be a decline in brain function a few days or weeks after the event occurred. This is caused by delayed injury in the brain. Symptoms may then improve gradually over time.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may need to see a doctor who specializes in brain problems.
These tests may be ordered to learn the extent of the brain damage and the part of the brain that is involved:
Treatment of anoxic brain damage will depend on the cause. Some treatment options include:
Recovery from brain damage can be uncertain. It will also take time. Your chance for recovery depends on how long and how severely you were deprived of oxygen. Many people with mild brain damage can usually recover most of the lost functions.
During rehabilitation, you and your family will work with:
Recovery can take months, or even years. In many cases, full recovery is never achieved but some can successfully learn to live with any remaining disabilities. In general, the sooner rehabilitation starts, the better the outcome.
Your doctor may have you take the following medicines:
To reduce the risk of anoxic brain damage:
American Brain Injury Society
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Brain Injury Association of Alberta
Ontario Brain Injury Association
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Fauci AS, Braunwald E, Kasper DL, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill; 2008: chap 269.
Hopkins R, Haaland K. Neuropsychological and neuropathological effects of anoxic or ischemic induced brain injury. J Int Neuropsychol Soc . 2004;10:957-961.
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Shprecher D, Mehta L. The syndrome of delayed post-hypoxic leukoencephalopathy. Neuro Rehabilitation. 2010:26(1): 65-72.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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