The Difference Between Hypoxic and Anoxic Brain Injuries

Brain injuries are often very devastating, and in many cases the injury victim may require continuous medical care and assistance for the remainder of their lives. There are a number of ways that brain injuries can occur, and the source of the injury can often be related to the chances for recovery and the actual extent of the injury.

There are two classifications of brain injury that result from the brain being deprived of oxygen – hypoxic brain injury and anoxic brain injury.

Causes of Anoxic Brain Injury

An anoxic brain injury is caused by an overall lack of oxygen being delivered to the brain. According to New York University’s Langone Medical Center, brain cells will begin to die off after going approximately four minutes without oxygen, meaning every second counts when a person is potentially suffering an anoxic brain injury.

Strokes can be a common cause of anoxic brain injuries, because the person suffering a stroke can experience multiple respiratory complications that prevent the flow of oxygen from being properly delivered to the brain. Heart attack is another leading cause of this particular type of brain injury.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is another common contributing factor to anoxic brain injuries, because it prevents your blood from absorbing the oxygen that it is designed to carry to the brain. Many experts maintain that with these types of brain injuries, the damage is often permanent because a total lack of oxygen leads to more severe and widespread brain damage.

Causes of Hypoxic Brain Injury

A hypoxic brain injury is caused by a decrease in oxygen flow to the brain, which is different from an anoxic brain injury which is classified by a complete lack of oxygen to the brain. Although the brain is technically still receiving some amount of oxygen with this type of injury, it does not necessarily mean that the injury is any less severe.

As with all types of brain injuries, the severity of a hypoxic brain injury is entirely dependent upon the circumstances of the initial injury. In this case, the duration of which the brain experienced oxygen deficiency will have a significant impact on the long-term effects and potential for recovery.

The NYU Langone Medical Center says that hypoxic brain injuries are often caused by the same conditions and circumstances as an anoxic brain injury, mentioned above. The only difference is whether there is a decreased oxygen supply or complete lack of oxygen.

Treatment and Recovery for Brain Injury Victims

Medication is often prescribed to brain injury victims and is used to slow down brain activity so that it can recover and reduce the amount of oxygen it requires. In some cases, swelling can cause further brain damage and medication is therefore used to reduce the swelling as well.

Brain injury victims also often undergo oxygen therapy, which is designed to increase the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream and help the brain recover from the damage it sustained. There are a number of additional forms of therapy that brain injury victims often undergo, including physical therapy and speech therapy.

Recovery from a brain injury can take months, or even years in some cases. It is often difficult to make a full recovery from a brain injury, but the likelihood for recovery and rehabilitation are significantly dependent upon the circumstances of the initial injury – i.e. how long the victim was without oxygen and how soon the person began receiving treatment.

Chris Davis
Top-rated, award-winning, attorney practicing wrongful death & serious injury law in Seattle.
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