Anoxic Brain Injury
Anoxic brain damage is the result of a brain injury that impedes the flow of oxygen to the brain. Without oxygen, brain cells can only survive for about four minutes. Since oxygen is carried to the brain by blood, any injury that prevents the constant flow of blood to the brain may result in anoxic brain damage. Infirmities such as blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks can create conditions that lead to anoxic brain damage.
In individuals where the flow of blood is normal, a low oxygen supply in the blood may result in anoxic brain damage. This could happen as a result of lung disease, being in an environment with low oxygen such as high altitudes, or being an area where the air has a high concentration of toxins such as carbon monoxide. Anoxic brain damage is often seen in cases of drowning, choking, suffocation, electrical shock, drug use, and in areas with high carbon monoxide content.
Symptoms and Treatment for Anoxic Brain Damage
In extreme cases, anoxic brain injury will end in death. However, nonfatal cases of anoxic brain injury may leave an individual in a coma or a vegetable like a state. Mild hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, will leave a person with a headache, confused, with poor coordination, or experiencing seizures. Long-term effects include difficulties with concentration, changes in mood and frequent bouts with the loss of consciousness.
Anoxic brain damage can only be determined by a medical professional. They will perform test including CT scans, EEGs, and MRI scans to measure the activity of the brain. SPECT scans provide information on the brands blood flow and metabolism that can be useful in diagnosing anoxic brain damage.
An individual suffering from anoxia may experience problems with short-term memory. This is due in part to the fact that the hippocampus, the part of the brain connected to short-term memory, is very susceptible to a lack of oxygen. It is very common for people dealing with anoxic brain damage to find it difficult to remember new information.
Other long-term symptoms include an inability to make sound judgments and to process new information. Anoxic brain damage suffers can develop an impulse of personality or may be prone to indecisiveness. Multitasking is difficult for them because of their inability to concentrate on any task.
The Cognitive, Physical, and Emotional Challenges of Anoxic Brain Injuries
Other cognitive challenges that people with anoxic brain damage suffered include problems processing visual information. They may attempt to reach for an object, but they may be unable to grab it because the link between what they see and how their body reacts has been damaged. Some are even unable to identify different shapes or colors that they were familiar with before the injury.
Physical symptoms could include an inability to walk straight. Anoxic brain damage suffers often walk as if they are intoxicated. It can become a challenge for these individuals to perform the common task like drinking a cup of water because their body does not remember the steps needed to complete this function. Quadriparesis, a form of body weakness that affects the legs and arms is also common.
The limitations that anoxic brain injuries put on an individual’s quality of life can lead to emotional challenges such as depression, increased irritability, and an overall lack of interest in life.