Miami, Florida – Cerebral anoxia and hypoxia are terms used to refer to a deprivation of oxygen supply to the brain. Cerebral anoxia refers to a complete absence of oxygen while cerebral hypoxia refers to a dangerous diminution of oxygen supply to this vital organ. Either can can lead to severe, irreversible brain damage characterized by the terms “anoxic brain damage” or “hypoxic brain damage.” Either condition can be the result of medical malpractice.
There are numerous causes of cerebral anoxia or hypoxia. Some examples include:
1). Injuries during birth/delivery (medical malpractice),
2). Compression of the trachea (sometimes the result of medical malpractice),
3). Complications of general anesthesia (often the result of medical malpractice),
4). Drug overdose (often the result of pharmacy negligence or medical malpractice),
5). Asphyxiation caused by ventilator/respirator failure or misuse (sometimes the result of
6). Inadequate perfusion on heart/lung machine during coronary artery bypass graft
surgery (CABG) (usually the result of negligence or medical malpractice),
7). Surgical errors,
8). Failure to monitor and treat severe hypotension (very low blood pressure) (usually the
result of medical malpractice),
9). Accidental Drowning or near drowning,
10). Asphyxiation caused by smoke inhalation,
12). Cardiac arrest (when the heart stops pumping),
13). Carbon monoxide poisoning,
14). High altitudes,
15). Choking, and;
16). Diseases that paralyze the respiratory muscles
The cells that make up the human brain are extremely sensitive to oxygen deprivation. Some brain cells actually start to die within the first 5 minutes after their oxygen supply is interrupted. As a result, brain anoxia/hypoxia can lead to death or severe brain damage very quickly.
Brain hypoxia and anoxia are medical emergencies and must be treated immediately. The sooner medical attention is received and the oxygen supply to the brain restored, the better the chances of avoiding severe brain damage or death.
Hypoxia can be mild or severe (anoxia). In mild cases, inattentiveness, poor judgment, and uncoordinated movement may result. In severe cases, the results can include seizures, coma and brain death.
In cases where the brain is deprived of oxygen for only a short time and a coma results, it may be completely or partially reversible, depending on the extent of injury.
Cerebral anoxia/hypoxia is treated in different ways depending on what caused it. In every instance, basic life-support must be ensured.
The outlook or prognosis depends on the extent of the brain injury which, in turn, depends on how long the period of oxygen deprivation lasted. The patients who experience the best recoveries will have been deprived of oxygen for a short period of time.
Conversely, the prognosis is usually poor for those persons who were oxygen deprived for a longer period of time. Even a few minutes is considered a long time for the brain to be without oxygen.
When cerebral anoxia/hypoxia occurs as the result of medical malpractice, the patient or her family members are often not aware that oxygen loss to the brain has occurred. Symptoms to look out for include behavioral changes, cognitive or physical impairment, inattentiveness, poor judgment, memory loss, and a decrease in motor coordination among other warning signs.
Victims of cerebral anoxia/hypoxia, particularly infants and children, can be left with a permanent disability. It is critical for these individuals to receive extensive and continuous support from family, friends and specialists in treating brain damage and in providing neuro-rehabilitation.
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