Anoxic Brain Injury: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

anoxic brain injury

On August 5, 2022, actress Anne Heche crashed into two homes, with the second one getting caught on fire, allegedly due to speeding. She was pronounced legally dead later on due to an anoxic brain injury. 

What is anoxic brain injury? As the brain functions, it consumes a significant amount of energy, thus requiring a constant supply of oxygen through the blood. If the brain does not get its oxygen supply in four minutes, brain cells will start to die, causing severe and, sometimes, lifelong brain damage.

Also referred to as hypoxic-anoxic brain injury or cerebral anoxia, an anoxic brain injury is a complete lack of oxygen delivery to the brain. If there is insufficient oxygen to an organ, like the brain, this is called hypoxia. Blood and oxygen have critical roles in keeping a person’s physical functioning intact, so injuries caused by accidents can lead to serious problems. 

In this article, we will answer “what is anoxic brain injury” and discuss its causes, symptoms, treatment, management, and prevention. We will also explain how brain injury lawyers can help you if someone else is responsible for your injury.

What is Anoxic Brain Injury?

As explained by Lacerte, Shapshak, and Mesfin (2022) in their journal, “Hypoxic Brain Injury”, when oxygen delivery to the brain through the blood is compromised, hypoxic or anoxic brain injury can happen. Cellular damage will occur within minutes, leading to anoxic brain injury in the absence of immediate medical intervention.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with anoxic brain injury ICD 10 code G93.1, expect that the cognitive and neurological impairments will be long-term or even permanent. Others also lose consciousness from lack of oxygen and experience seizures. Brain death can even occur after more than 10 minutes of no oxygen in the brain (ischemic brain injury).

Can you recover from an anoxic brain injury? As cited in the said study, the American Heart Association recorded that 50-83%, a vast majority, of cardiac arrest patients who survive suffer from significant cognitive symptoms (Lacerte, Shapshak, and Mesfin, 2022).

This is brought about by the dead brain cells, diminishing brain function and cerebral blood flow. But one thing is for sure, healthy brain cells can help rewire the brain. While the odds of recovery may depend on factors like the severity of the damage, the age of the patient, and how long the patient is in a coma, not all hope is lost. 

Causes of Anoxic Brain Injury

Here are the things that can affect the oxygen supply to the brain:

  • Cardiac arrest
  • Drowning or nearly drowning
  • Acute lung injury leading to respiratory arrest
  • Suffocation, strangulation, or choking
  • Smoke inhalation or carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Seizure
  • Substance use disorders and drug overdoses
  • Head injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries
  • Electrocution
  • Acute hemorrhage or severe blood loss
  • Arrhythmia
  • Surgical complications, including anesthesia problems
  • Increased intracranial pressure and brain swelling

Symptoms and Treatment

Due to the diffuse brain damage caused by the cerebral hypoxia or anoxic brain injury, several cognitive and neurological outcomes happen, such as memory impairment and deficits in motor function, emotion, vision, language, recognition, visuospatial integration, and learning (Wolstenholme and Moore, 2010). More specifically, a poor supply of oxygen to the brain often results in the following immediate neurological outcomes:

  • Impaired consciousness level or loss of consciousness
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Trouble responding, such as squeezing the hand
  • Slurred speech
  • Facial drooping
  • Face and skin color changes
  • Fast or shallow breathing

Immediate medical attention is needed to avoid the long-term and permanent effects of brain injury and anoxic brain damage. Restoring the oxygen supply to the brain is the main goal of emergency treatment. Moreover, medications will also be given to control the blood pressure and heartbeat of the patient. But the treatments vary depending on the cause. For more severe brain injuries, anoxic episodes need to be brought to the intensive care unit (ICU) for the use of a ventilator to breathe and more specialized care.

How to Prevent Anoxic Brain Injury

If you see a person with the immediate symptoms of hypoxic or anoxic brain injury, perform CPR, especially if the person loses consciousness or cardiac arrest happens. Before medical help comes, you can help someone improve their cerebral blood flow and lower the risk of sustaining a serious injury.

You can also prevent an anoxic episode by regulating your surroundings. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Always wear your seatbelt when you drive or ride a car. Wear protective clothing and gear when you ride a motorcycle, bike, moped, ski, and skateboard. Wear life vests when you swim. Keep an eye on children as they swim and play on any body of water, even the bathtub.

Long-term Effects of Anoxic Brain Injury

Some of the long-term effects of cerebral anoxia are:

  • Permanent vegetative state (coma)
  • Memory impairment
  • Personality changes
  • Speech difficulties
  • Problems with walking, balance, and coordination
  • Vision problems
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty with logic, focus, and reason

Urgent medical attention is important for anybody with anoxic brain damage. The recovery period is long and function might never be fully restored. Neurological outcomes can lead to poor quality of life, impaired personal relationships, lost wages, and more. This is why if you or a loved one are suffering from brain injuries caused by somebody else’s recklessness, you need an expert attorney to ensure that those responsible for your situation are held accountable.  

Support Available for Patients and Caregivers

The ultimate question for someone who survived an anoxic or hypoxic brain injury is “Can you recover from toxic anoxia?” Yes, but the journey towards full recovery from an anoxic brain injury ICD 10 diagnosis can be very challenging for both the patient and the caregiver or the family members and friends involved in taking care of the patient.

It’s not just neurological outcomes. Expect frustrations, misunderstandings, disappointments, and feelings of loneliness along the way. These emotional responses are normal but should not drive the entire progress down. The key is for the caregiver to be informed, involved, and guided by professionals.

Because it will take years and will require a lot of patience, the patient and caregiver should have good relations with the specialists providing rehab. Celebrating small and big successes also has beneficial effects. Staying motivated despite obstacles can significantly and positively impact the entire process.

Why You Need An Expert Brain Injury Lawyer for an Anoxic Brain Injury

If you or someone you care about is suffering from an anoxic brain injury due to another person’s fault, you have come to the right place. The goal is for your or your family member’s full recovery to be achieved much sooner than usual with the best medical specialists in the field to help you.

At Farahi Law Firm, our personal injury lawyers care about your recovery and peace of mind. We offer compassionate and competent legal representation for victims of traumatic brain injury or any other type of brain impairment that leads to pain and losses.

Reach out to our representatives for more information! Consultation is free and we will not change a cent unless we win.