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NINDS Cerebral Hypoxia Information Page

Synonym(s):   Hypoxia, Anoxia

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What is Cerebral Hypoxia?

Cerebral hypoxia refers to a condition in which there is a decrease of oxygen supply to the brain even though there is adequate blood flow. Drowning, strangling, choking, suffocation, cardiac arrest, head trauma, carbon monoxide poisoning, and complications of general anesthesia can create conditions that can lead to cerebral hypoxia. Symptoms of mild cerebral hypoxia include inattentiveness, poor judgment, memory loss, and a decrease in motor coordination. Brain cells are extremely sensitive to oxygen deprivation and can begin to die within five minutes after oxygen supply has been cut off. When hypoxia lasts for longer periods of time, it can cause coma, seizures, and even brain death.  In brain death, there is no measurable activity in the brain, although cardiovascular function is preserved. Life support is required for respiration.

Is there any treatment?

Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the hypoxia, but basic life-support systems have to be put in place: mechanical ventilation to secure the airway; fluids, blood products, or medications to support blood pressure and heart rate; and medications to suppress seizures.

What is the prognosis?

Recovery depends on how long the brain has been deprived of oxygen and how much brain damage has occurred, although carbon monoxide poisoning can cause brain damage days to weeks after the event. Most people who make a full recovery have only been briefly unconscious. The longer someone is unconscious, the higher the chances of death or brain death and the lower the chances of a meaningful recovery. During recovery, psychological and neurological abnormalities such as amnesia, personality regression, hallucinations, memory loss, and muscle spasms and twitches may appear, persist, and then resolve.

What research is being done?

The NINDS supports and conducts studies aimed at understanding neurological conditions that can damage the brain, such as cerebral hypoxia. The goals of these studies are to find ways to prevent and treat these conditions.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Cerebral Hypoxia Clinical Trials

Organizations

Column1 Column2
Brain Injury Association of America, Inc.
1608 Spring Hill Rd
Suite 110
Vienna, VA   22182
braininjuryinfo@biausa.org
http://www.biausa.org
Tel: 703-761-0750 800-444-6443
Fax: 703-761-0755

National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC)
8201 Corporate Drive
Suite 600
Landover, MD   20785
naricinfo@heitechservices.com
http://www.naric.com
Tel: 301-459-5900/301-459-5984 (TTY) 800-346-2742
Fax: 301-562-2401

Brain Injury Resource Center
P.O.Box 84151
Seattle, WA   98124
brain@headinjury.com
http://www.headinjury.com
Tel: 206-621-8558
Fax: 206-329-4355

Brain Trauma Foundation
7 World Trade Center 250 Greenwich Street
34th Floor
New York, NY   10017
education@braintrauma.org
http://www.braintrauma.org
Tel: 212-772-0608
Fax: 212-772-0357

Easter Seals
233 South Wacker Drive
Suite 2400
Chicago, IL   60606
info@easterseals.com
http://www.easterseals.com
Tel: 312-726-6200 800-221-6827
Fax: 312-726-1494

 
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Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892



NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last updated February 14, 2014