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Hypoxic and Anoxic Brain Injury Incidents

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Many different types of personal injury incidents -- ranging from auto accidents to birth injury medical malpractice situations to defective carbon monoxide detectors -- can result in the brain being deprived of the oxygen needed to remain functional and healthy.  The severity of these injuries is usually related to the degree of oxygen deprivation, from low oxygen levels (hypoxic) to zero oxygen levels (anoxic), the duration of the oxygen deprivation, and the amount of the brain deprived of oxygen to the injury incident type.  

A personal injury attorney who is experienced in handling these types of cases can help an injury victim recover compensation for the often major damages related to these types of brain injuries.  

Causes of Hypoxic and Anoxic Brain Injuries  

Most relevant to how personal injury attorneys may be able to help people with these types of brain injuries are the specific causes of the injury events.  Did the injury result from someone's negligent actions?  Did the injury result from defective medical devices or safety products 

The four categories of causation into which hypoxic brain injuries are classified often answer these questions regarding legal negligence:  

Limited oxygen in the environment -- certain professions may be exposed to environmental conditions where there simply isn't enough oxygen.  This would include firefighters, construction or maintenance workers in enclosed spaces, aircraft pilots, and divers.  All of these people work in environments where oxygen is more or less likely to be reduced. If they suffer anoxic or hypoxic brain injuries, it may often result from inadequate safety procedures and training or defective equipment.  In these situations, personal injury attorneys who are experienced in handling product defect cases and/or workers compensation cases may help.  

Limited oxygen in the blood -- different medical conditions can result in inadequate blood oxygen levels (anemia, for example), but this can also result from exposure to carbon monoxide, which replaces oxygen in attaching to the hemoglobin molecules in blood cells that carry oxygen through the body.  Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas produced by many types of combustion, and people with carbon monoxide poisoning may be exposed to it through defective machines (cooking appliances, automobiles) or missing or defective carbon monoxide warning detectors.  Personal injury attorneys with experience in product defects cases can help those injured in these instances.  

Reduced blood flow to the brain -- this often results from health problems such as strokes and heart attacks, but it can also result from traumatic injuries that disrupt the blood flow.  Where that trauma results from another person's negligence -- traffic accidents causing head trauma, slip-and-fall incidents with head injuries – experienced personal injury attorneys can provide crucial advice and help to an injured person.

Brain tissue inability to absorb oxygen -- this unusual situation occurs where there is adequate blood flow and adequate oxygen in the blood, but inadequate oxygen reaches the brain tissue.  It can result from certain types of chemical poisonings that prevent the tissue from absorbing oxygen properly.  Certain cyanides, for example, can do this. If the poisoning results from negligent causes -- inadequate protections in a workplace environment, for example -- then a personal injury attorney with expertise in industrial injury cases can be a valuable resource for injury victims.  

What are the Basic Types of Hypoxic and Anoxic Brain Injuries?  

A constant supply of oxygen is needed by the brain to function, but an event may disrupt that supply in some cases.  Brain injury occurs when the brain is not receiving enough oxygen.  When the brain is receiving a lowered amount of oxygen, a "hypoxic" brain injury may occur ("hypo" mean "low" or "under"), and when the brain is receiving no oxygen at all, an "anoxic" brain injury is likely to occur.  

Four types of brain injuries can result from different types of injury incidents:  

  • Diffuse cerebral hypoxia -- a mild impairment due to reduced oxygen levels in the blood -- an individual will often recover quickly and completely without residual problems if oxygen levels are quickly returned to normal;  
  • Focal cerebral ischemia -- a brain injury resulting from reduced blood flow in a specific area of the brain, such as from a head injury with internal bleeding, a stroke in a single area of the brain, or by a burst in a blood vessel or aneurysm;
  • Global cerebral ischemia -- a brain injury resulting from stopped blood flow to the entire brain, such as from a heart stoppage;  
  • Cerebral infarction -- a "stroke" from stopped blood flow to multiple areas of the brain.  

Of these injury types, global cerebral ischemia is considered the worst since it involves a complete lack of oxygen to the entire brain.  However, with any of these injury types, if there is a prolonged lack of enough oxygen, then brain cells (neurons) will die, causing long-term injuries or even death.   

Prenatal and Neonatal Hypoxic Injuries  

A particularly tragic type of hypoxic brain injury is unfortunately too well-known during later pregnancy and during birth.  Hypoxic injury can affect a fetus during the various stages of fetal development. If an obstetrician fails to note and deal with obvious warning signs, this could be a medical malpractice situation for which a personal injury attorney could provide assistance.    

Problems predisposing a fetus to this condition include maternal diabetes and preeclampsia. It also includes congenital infections and severe fetal anemia. Drug or alcohol abuse and maternal vascular problems are also on the list. Cardiac disease and problems affecting blood flow to the placenta can also be an issue.  

More often seen are "birth injury" problems that take place during labor and delivery. If medical staff does not take proper precautions and properly monitor the mother and child, serious problems can arise that impede blood flow to the infant's brain and result in anoxic or hypoxic brain injury.  Problems during the labor and delivery process that can cause this involve umbilical cord occlusion and umbilical cord torsion or prolapse.  It also includes a rupture of the uterus and the placenta. Bleeding from behind the placenta and abnormal fetal position can also be an issue. Very low blood pressure in the mother and prolonged late stages of labor are also on the list.  

Signs and Symptoms of Hypoxic Brain Injury  

Many signs of an impending anoxic or hypoxic brain injury may be visible to people around the injury victim and sometimes even to the victim themselves.  If this is occurring in a medical or workplace setting, then those people around the potential injury victim may have some varying degree of responsibility for maintaining a proper lookout for those signs, and failing to do so may result in direct legal liability for injuries that follow.  Personal injury attorneys with experience handling these cases will have the expertise and resources to review and analyze evidence and testimony that may point to these failures.  

The body responds to a lowering of the oxygen by sending more blood to the brain and less blood to the peripheral tissues.  Cerebral blood flow is increased up to twice the normal amount. If the increased blood flow is enough, then there will be no symptoms. If, on the other hand, the twice-increased blood flow is not enough, then symptoms of cerebral hypoxia begin.  

When this happens, the first things to go are complex learning and short-term memory skills. If the cognitive deprivation continues, there will be cognitive disturbances and deficits in motor control. The skin may be cyanotic (bluish), and the heart rate goes up. Even more oxygen deprivation, fainting, coma, loss of consciousness, seizures, loss of brainstem function, and death.  

Check out this YouTube video, which talks about the signs and symptoms of hypoxia:  

Sacramento Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer  

Hello, my name is Ed Smith, and I am a Sacramento traumatic brain injury lawyer.  If you or a loved one has suffered an anoxic or hypoxic brain injury or other brain trauma due to another person's fault -- whether from a car accident, medical practice, industrial injury, or another type of injury incident, call our injury lawyers for free, friendly advice at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400.  You can also reach us through our online contact form 

We are members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the National Association of Distinguished Counsel 

See our case history of verdicts and settlements and our client reviews on Google, Yelp, and Avvo. 

Image Attribution:  Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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