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Cerebral Hypoxia after a Traumatic Brain Injury

By Matt Lalande in Brain Injuries on July 07, 2022

Cerebral Hypoxia after a Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injuries can be incredibly serious and have severe, long-term consequences for the victim. They also come with a myriad of potential complications for permanent damage, including one condition – called cerebral hypoxia.

Brain injuries are particularly devastating because they often lead to permanent consequences and total disability. Individuals who suffer severe brain damage may never be able to return to work or the activities they once enjoyed, causing significant financial burden and emotional distress on top of the physical pain of the injury.

As Hamilton brain injury lawyers who have worked extensively with those who have suffered catastrophic injuries, we have seen the numerous complications that can make a brain injury victim’s life very difficult. Cerebral hypoxia is a severe consequence that may damage you or your loved one’s future. If you or your loved one has suffered a severe traumatic brain injury out brain injury lawyers can help. Our brain injury lawyers have represented thousands of car accident, motorcycle accident, trucking accident, pedestrian accident and bicycle accident victims since 2003 who have suffered various kinds of traumatic brain injuries.

What is Cerebral Hypoxia?

According to the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health, severe traumatic brain injury impacts approximately 11.4 out of every 100,000 people in Canada, but mild traumatic brain injury impacts as many as 600 out of 100,000 Canadians. Therefore, many Canadians suffer from the devastating consequences of brain injury and are at risk for severe complications. Cerebral hypoxia is one of the significant complications that may arise when a traumatic brain injury occurs.

In simplest terms, cerebral hypoxia occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen. The brain depends on a constant supply of oxygen in order to function. When that supply is interrupted, the brain becomes damaged. In some cases, the brain may trigger a natural response by temporarily increasing blood flow in order to compensate for the lack of oxygen, but this also leads to a higher risk of stroke, blood clotting, or brain bleeding.

Cerebral hypoxia may occur for a short period of time, such as a few seconds of lost consciousness immediately after a blow to the head. It may also occur for a longer duration, rendering the victim comatose or in a vegetative state. The prognosis depends on the length of time the brain is deprived of oxygen. Generally, when it lasts for less than 60 seconds, the individual is more likely to make a full recovery. After one or two minutes, cellular injury begins to occur, and the chances of a full recovery begin to decrease. When hypoxia occurs for longer than four minutes, the consequences may be fatal. 

Types of Cerebral Hypoxia

There are four different classifications for cerebral hypoxia. Each comes with its own set of risk factors, prognosis, and severity. 

Diffuse cerebral hypoxia: A more mild and less severe form of cerebral hypoxia, diffuse cerebral hypoxia occurs when an individual suffers low blood oxygen levels for a shorter period of time. For example, this could occur if an individual holds their breath underwater for too long, or if they are choked during an altercation. Generally, as this is a moderate type of hypoxia, victims are less likely to suffer permanent brain damage and may make a full recovery.

Cerebral infarction: A severe and serious form of cerebral hypoxia, cerebral infarction refers to the interruption of oxygen flow to multiple areas of the brain at one time, and can lead to severe, extensive brain damage or death. It is commonly caused by a stroke, but may occur at any time a lack of oxygen causes the brain tissues to suffer cellular damage.

Global cerebral ischemia: This condition occurs when the oxygen flow to the brain stops completely. Generally, this type of injury is caused by blunt force trauma such as gunshot wounds or stab wounds, a crushing impact from a motorcycle accident or pedestrian accident, or through suffocation.

Focal cerebral ischemia: This classification is given to victims who experience oxygen loss to a specific area of the brain. It’s most likely to arise after a hemorrhage in the brain, which may occur after a car accident, slip and fall, or sports injury wherein the head is struck with a force strong enough to cause the brain to strike against the side of the skull.

What Causes Cerebral Hypoxia?

Cerebral hypoxia is an aspect of severe traumatic brain injury, and therefore any serious accident may put an individual at risk. The brain is a vulnerable, vital organ that relies entirely on the protection of the skull for security. During a high-impact accident or collision, the brain may be thrown from its position and strike against the walls of the skull, putting the victim at risk for catastrophic consequences.

Slip and falls are a leading cause of traumatic brain injury. Falling abruptly and unexpectedly can leave little time to prepare or brace for the impact, putting the victim at risk for head injuries. For example, a victim may slip on an icy sidewalk and hit their head against the ice, causing brain bruising or loss of oxygen.

Car accidents are also a significant cause of cerebral hypoxia and brain injury. The forceful impact of a collision often leads to head and neck injuries, especially during head-on collisions, rear-end collisions, and t-bone collisions. These types of accidents are never predictable, and therefore the impact is almost always unexpected and sudden, with little time to protect the brain.

Sports injuries are also a common cause of cerebral hypoxia and traumatic brain injury, especially sports where the individual is at a higher risk of being struck in the head or choked, such as football or martial arts. Diving and swimming pool injuries can lead to hypoxia as well, as the individual is required to hold their breath underwater for a certain period of time.

Sadly, cerebral hypoxia is also commonly linked to birth injuries. Children who suffer oxygen deprivation at birth often experience chronic conditions and illnesses such as cerebral palsy that may impact them for the duration of their life.

Symptoms and Long-Term Complications

Unfortunately, traumatic brain injury often leads to permanent, long-term consequences that may render an individual totally disabled for the rest of their life. The most prominent and clear sign of cerebral hypoxia is loss of consciousness, which generally occurs immediately after the accident or injury. Other signs may include confusion, headaches, blurred vision, memory loss, nausea, vomiting, or temporary motor loss in certain areas of the body.

Some long-term consequences of cerebral hypoxia may include:

  • Long-term loss of consciousness such as an extended coma or a permanent vegetative state
  • Permanent brain damage leading to impaired cognitive function, such as altered personality or errors in judgement 
  • Impaired fine motor skills such as speech function, loss of balance, and hand-eye coordination 
  • Memory loss to the extent that the victim may need to re-learn vocabulary words
  • Epilepsy or seizures 
  • Death 

Can Cerebral Hypoxia be Treated?

Depending on the severity of the damage, victims who suffer from cerebral hypoxia may make a recovery. However, the longer the hypoxia persists, the lower the prognosis will be. The brain is a complex and delicate organ, despite the importance it has to the entire body’s nervous system. As a result, it can be difficult to treat severe brain injury.

Cerebral hypoxia is an urgent medical emergency and must be treated immediately. With mild cases, the victim may make a recovery naturally by removing themselves from the situation that caused their injury. For example, if an individual suffers from cerebral hypoxia after staying underwater for too long, they may be able to make a recovery by leaving the pool to rest and taking long, deep breaths to get their regulation back to normal. 

In more severe cases, an individual may need to be put on a ventilator immediately in order to ensure their breathing returns to normal. A health care professional may also use intravenous fluids, blood regulation medications, or surgical procedures to manage blood clotting.

Work With a Hamilton Personal Injury Lawyer Who Has Experience Helping Brain Injury Victims 

If you or a loved one has become severely disabled or impaired due to a traumatic brain injury after someone else was negligent, you have the right to seek compensation. Our Personal Injury Lawyer have been working with victims of catastrophic traumatic brain injuries since 2003, ensuring they receive fair and proper compensation for the devastating pain, suffering and losses they have endured. Our brain injury lawyers are experienced and skill your family needs to recover the compensation it deserves to help fund your loved one’s care, medical and rehabilitation costs, lost wages and loss of economic opportunity.

Lalande Personal Injury Lawyers is a victim-focused firm, representing individuals who have suffered severe, life-changing injuries. Our brain injury lawyers never represent insurance companies. Our focus is assisting those who have been wronged and holding at-fault parties accountable for negligent actions. We understand that no amount of money will undo the suffering you’ve been through, but a fair settlement will bring you some peace of mind while you and your family focus on recovering.

Call our Hamilton Brain Injury Lawyers now to book a free consultation to discuss the details of your case and the options that are available to you. We never charge up front fees, will never pressure you to retain our firm after meeting with us, and we only get paid if you win your case. There is therefore no risk to you in asking us about your options. Book your consultation through our online form, or call us province-wide at 1-844-LALANDE and local throughout Southern Ontario at 905-333-8888.

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Article Summary FAQ

What is Cerebral Hypoxia?

Cerebral hypoxia occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen. The brain depends on a constant supply of oxygen in order to function. When that supply is interrupted, the brain becomes damaged.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can result from trauma ranging from a simple blow to the head to a penetrating injury to the brain. A traumatic brain injury can lead to temporary and/or permanent changes in thinking, movement, emotions, and communication.

What is the treatment for a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Treatment can consist of physical rehabilitation, psychotherapy, medications, community rehab assistance, attendant care, and management of sleep dysfunction,

Who is involved in the care of a severe traumatic brain injury?

 Most people with a severe TBI need a combination of intensive medical care. Surgeons, critical care doctors, nurses, neurologists, pulmonary therapists, dietitians, pharmacists, physiatrists, occupational therapists, case managers, social workers and rehab therapists are often involved.

Can cerebral hypoxia be treated?

Depending on the severity of the damage, victims who suffer from cerebral hypoxia may make a recovery. However, the longer the hypoxia persists, the lower the prognosis will be. The brain is a complex and delicate organ, despite the importance it has to the entire body’s nervous system. As a result, it can be difficult to treat severe brain injury.

When should I talk to a brain injury lawyer?

If you or a loved one has suffered a severe traumatic TBI then it’s better to speak to a brain injury lawyer sooner rather than later. It’s important to get the appropriate insurance into place to pay for all the provisions of care required

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