Anoxic brain damage is injury to the brain due to a lack of oxygen. Hypoxia is the term to describe low oxygen. Brain cells without enough oxygen will begin to die after about four minutes.
Progression of Anoxic Brain Damage
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Oxygen is carried to the brain in the blood. Anoxic brain damage may occur if:
The following accidents and health problems may increase your chance of anoxic brain damage:
Severe damage may lead to a coma or a vegetative state. Mild to moderate hypoxic brain damage may cause:
Rarely, there may be a decline in brain function a few days or weeks after the event occurred. This is caused by delayed injury in the brain.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may need to see a doctor who specializes in brain problems.
These tests may be ordered to learn the extent of the brain damage and the part of the brain that is involved:
Treatment of anoxic brain damage will depend on the cause. Some treatment options include:
Recovery from brain damage can be uncertain. It will also take time. Your chance for recovery depends on how long and how severely you were deprived of oxygen. Many people with mild brain damage can usually recover most of the lost functions.
During rehabilitation, you and your family may work with:
Recovery can take months, or even years. In many cases, full recovery is never achieved, but some can successfully learn to live with any remaining disabilities. In general, the sooner rehabilitation starts, the better the outcome.
To your chance of having anoxic brain damage, take these steps:
American Brain Injury Society
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Ontario Brain Injury Association
Public Health Agency of Canada
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NINDS Cerebral hypoxia information page. National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
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Updated February 14, 2014. Accessed May 29, 2014.
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Last reviewed May 2014 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 5/29/2014