As I’m sure all Kentuckians are aware, breathing is the most essential of the human body’s needs. Humans can survive for about a month without food—longer or shorter periods if one is over- or underweight to begin with. We can live about a week without water, but again, the length of time can vary depending on wellness, amount of body fat, and weather conditions.

As for oxygen, very low amounts for four minutes or longer causes brain cells to begin dying; more than five minutes, and permanent brain damage occurs.

What Happens to the Brain Without Oxygen?

Anoxic brain injury, also known as cerebral hypoxia or hypoxic-anoxic injury (HAI), can involve a decrease of oxygen to at least one body part; this is called hypoxia. It can also be total lack of oxygen, or anoxia. When anoxia occurs, and the brain’s supply of oxygen is completely cut off, the person will be unconscious within 10 seconds.

When brain cells die, the brain’s electrochemical impulses are interrupted and neurotransmitters do not function correctly. Neurotransmitters help to regulate the body’s functions and behavior.

Causes of Anoxia

According to the New York University Langone Medical Center website, the following are common causes of anoxia:

  • Blood flow to the brain has been blocked, as when there is a blood clot or a stroke.
  • Blood flow to the brain is slow, as in a shock or with some heart problems, such as a heart attack.
  • The blood does not have enough oxygen; this may occur as a result of lung disease or chronic anemia.
  • Toxins in the body prevent the body from efficiently using oxygen in the blood, as in carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • The air does not contain enough oxygen, as at high altitudes.

The following health problems and accidents present a risk of anoxia:

  • cardiac arrest;
  • choking;
  • suffocation;
  • near-drowning;
  • electrical shock;
  • carbon monoxide poisoning;
  • heart attack;
  • heart arrhythmia;
  • stroke;
  • brain tumors; and
  • drug use.

Symptoms of Anoxia

Severe cases of anoxia can cause the individual to go into a coma. Mild to moderate cases may result in the following:

  • headache;
  • confusion;
  • changes in mood or personality;
  • seizures;
  • intermittent loss of consciousness;
  • a decrease in concentration and attention span;
  • muscle jerks accompanying movement; and
  • Parkinson’s-like symptoms.

If you or a loved one has suffered serious brain injury during surgery or another medical procedure in Kentucky, contact Gray and White Law. Our medical malpractice attorneys in Louisville, KY, will set you up with a FREE, no-obligation consultation. Call us at 502-210-8942 or toll free at 888-450-4456.

Matthew L. White
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Founder & Partner of Louisville Personal Injury Law Firm Gray & White Law

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