How does the lack of oxygen affect the brain during brain hypoxia?

When you awoke, you were sitting in a hospital bed and a nurse was checking your vital signs. You had absolutely no idea what had happened. The last thing you remembered was getting ready to go to dinner with your wife.

When the nurse noticed that you were awake, he immediately ran to get the doctor. When he returned, he brought the doctor and your wife. After several confused moments, where he checked your eyes and asked you several questions that you didn’t understand, your wife explained what had happened.

Apparently, while eating diner you had choked on a piece of potato. After several minutes of panic, a waiter was able to perform the Heimlich maneuver and remove the offensive spud. However, even though you were able to take a breath, you still passed out. That was three days ago—you’ve been unconscious ever since. The doctor told you that you would have to remain under observation for the next few days to make sure you didn’t suffer any permanent brain damage.

Brain damage? From choking? What kind of damage could there be?    

What Happens When Your Brain Can’t Breathe?

Like the rest of the organs in your body, the brain needs a constant flow of oxygen in order to function properly. When that flow is disrupted, essential tissues and cells begin to breakdown and die. As a result, the longer your brain goes without oxygen, the more cells die—affecting your brain’s functionality.

Depending on the amount of time that your brain is without oxygen, the cerebral complications can vary from mild cognitive problems to severe motor function problems. The outlook depends on the extent of the brain injury. This is determined by how long the brain had lacked oxygen, and whether nutrition to the brain was also affected. Most people who make a full recovery were only briefly unconscious, but the longer you’re unconscious, the higher the risk for complications, death, or brain death.

Complications include:

  • Brief periods of unconsciousness, or reversible coma-like symptoms
  • Clots in the veins
  • Lung infections
  • Abnormal movements such as twitching or jerking, called myoclonus
  • Seizures may sometimes occur, and may be continuous
  • Prolonged vegetative state
  • Cognitive degeneration
  • Decreased motor function

Preparing for the Future

Brain injuries are the most horrific and detrimental of all injuries. Not only is treatment expensive, but depending on the severity of the injury, you may need a lifetime of care and rehabilitation. Help prepare yourself and your family for the long journey ahead, by contacting us today for a free consultation. You may be entitled to damages and injury compensation that can help procure treatment options and further care. Don’t allow someone else’s mistake to cost you and your family your future.

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