It only takes a short period of time between oxygen deprivation and brain injury. In the short term, oxygen deprivation can lead to loss of consciousness. After a few minutes, oxygen deprivation can lead to coma, brain damage, and brain death. In most cases, brain injuries caused by lack of oxygen are permanent.
There are many possible causes of oxygen deprivation, including traumatic injuries or birth injuries. Lack of oxygen can be a tragic accident but when it is caused by another person's negligence, that person should be held responsible for their actions. A personal injury lawsuit may allow the injury victim to recover compensation for their injuries.
When a doctor fails to properly treat oxygen deprivation or a medical mistake causes brain injury, the patient and the patient's family may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover damages caused by medical errors.
Oxygen Deprivation and the Brain
The brain requires a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients in order to function. Oxygen is absorbed through the lungs and saturates the hemoglobin in the blood, which is then pumped to and from the brain by the heart. The arteries bring oxygen-rich blood to the brain and the veins take blood with carbon dioxide back to the heart and to the lungs. If the blood supply to the brain is cut off or the oxygen levels to the brain are reduced, the body reacts almost immediately.
Oxygen deprivation to the brain is generally caused by a decrease in oxygen in the blood or by impaired blood flow to the brain. For example, a severe allergic reaction may cause the airways to swell, making it difficult for the individual to inhale enough oxygen to maintain oxygen saturation to the body. Alternatively, a blood clot in the brain may block the blood flow to that part of the brain and areas of the brain may suffer cell death because the brain is not getting oxygenated blood.
The brain is a priority organ for the body when the oxygen supply is limited. All organs and tissue need blood and oxygen but when oxygen levels are low, the body will attempt to prioritize blood flow to the brain. Blood flow to the brain may increase by as much as double the normal rate. If the increased blood flow does not provide enough oxygen, symptoms of hypoxia will begin. Mild signs and symptoms of hypoxia may include:
- Short-term memory problems
- Cognitive impairment
- Cognitive disturbances
- Motor function impairment
As a result of moving blood to the brain, other body functions may be compromised. Peripheral blood flow may be reduced through narrowing blood vessels, which may cause the skin to turn bluish (cyanosis). Continued hypoxia may result in fainting, coma, seizure, and eventually, death.
Poor oxygen supply to the brain leads to the death of brain tissue and neurons. If the oxygen deprivation only affects a specific area, it can lead to focal ischemia, or brain death in a specific region of the brain. Oxygen deprivation across the brain can lead to global ischemia. During brain ischemia, cells begin to lose their ability to regulate chemical levels, leading to cell death.
Causes of Oxygen Deprivation in Adults
Causes of oxygen deprivation in adults can include medical conditions, cardiac arrest, vascular conditions, drug overdose, or head trauma. Some of the common causes of oxygen deprivation include:
- Car accidents
- Slip and falls
- Construction accidents
- Heart attack
- Sleep apnea
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
Causes of Oxygen Deprivation in Children
Younger children are more likely to be oxygen-deprived due to an accident or traumatic event. Some of the most common causes of oxygen deprivation injuries in children include:
- Car accident
- Bike accident
- Sports injuries
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Smoke inhalation
- Chemical poisoning
- Burn injuries
Causes of Oxygen Deprivation in Childbirth
During pregnancy, childbirth, and infancy, a child's brain is still developing. A developing brain can be extra sensitive to changes in oxygen levels and many birth injuries and medical conditions are caused by oxygen deprivation in the womb, during childbirth, or during infancy. Common causes of oxygen deprivation in childbirth include:
- Umbilical cord problems
- Maternal high blood pressure
- Traumatic birth
- Uterine rupture
- Placenta previa
- Anesthesia errors
- Premature birth
- Delayed C-section
Time Limits for Oxygen Deprivation and Brain Injury
Anoxia and hypoxia are related oxygen deprivation conditions. Anoxic brain injury is damage caused by a total lack of oxygen supply. Hypoxic brain injury is an injury caused by a reduction of oxygen supply. The amount of damage done generally depends on the extent of oxygen deprivation and where the oxygen deprivation occurs.
With mild hypoxia, the signs, symptoms, and injuries may take longer to onset. Mild symptoms may include memory problems, inattentiveness, sleepiness, or lack of energy. With total anoxia, the signs, symptoms and injuries may begin with minutes.
- After about 1 minute without oxygen, the individual may lose consciousness.
- Between about 1 minute and 3 minutes, brain cells and neurons begin to suffer damage. Permanent brain damage may be likely.
- After about 5 minutes, there may be more extensive brain cell death and severe brain damage, with an imminent risk of death.
- After about 10 minutes, death is likely.
- After 15 minutes, recovery and survival are nearly impossible.
Oxygen Deprivation Brain Injuries in Adults
Brain injury in adults can vary based on a number of factors, including the extent of the damage, individual's health, and area of the brain affected. Brain injuries can include cognitive, motor control, communication, and emotional dysfunction. Minor brain injuries can be managed with therapy and accommodations. Major brain injury may require hospitalization and around-the-clock care.
Oxygen Deprivation Brain Injuries in Babies
Oxygen deprivation brain injuries during pregnancy and childbirth may present immediately or it may take years before the extent of the brain damage is understood. Brain injuries caused by a lack of oxygen include cerebral palsy, epilepsy, developmental delays, neurodevelopmental delays, cognitive impairment, and motor impairment.
Oxygen Deprivation Brain Injury Attorneys
At Gilman & Bedigian, we will use our experience, knowledge, and dedication to investigate brain injuries caused by oxygen deprivation and determine if the damage was caused by malpractice. Our aggressive trial lawyers have helped our clients recover millions of dollars in compensation related to infarction injuries. Contact us online or call our law office at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.