Throughout March, in recognition of National Brain Injury Awareness Month, Our Chicago brain injury attorneys have been exploring the various types of brain injury, as well as the causes, symptoms, and consequences of each. Today, we take a closer look at hypoxic-anoxic brain injury, a type of nontraumatic brain injury which can be especially severe and damaging.
Hypoxic-anoxic brain injury, broadly defined, is any injury to the brain caused by oxygen deprivation. Thus, in spite of the complex-sounding medical terminology used to describe this condition, it is in fact simple to understand. Hypoxic-anoxic brain injury can result from a partial deprivation of oxygen to the brain, a deprivation of oxygen to only part of the brain, or a total deprivation of oxygen to all parts of the brain.
Any number of underlying conditions and events can lead to hypoxic-anoxic brain injury. These causes and events can range from a heart attack or stroke, to near-drowning, to poisoning or drug use, to problems in labor and delivery.
However, these causes and events generally fit into several broad categories of hypoxic-anoxic brain injury. The first, and best known, is known as stagnant anoxia (this type of injury is also referred to as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy or hypoxic-ischemic injury). In these injuries, an internal medical condition creates a blockage, and blood cannot reach the brain in an amount sufficient to provide the needed oxygen. The best known causes of this type of hypoxic-anoxic brain injury are heart attack and stroke.
Another common cause of stagnant anoxia is birth injury – the deprivation of oxygen to an infant during delivery, often as the result of medical negligence. This can lead to various disabilities and conditions such as cerebral palsy and neonatal encephalopathy.
Another broad category of hypoxic-anoxic brain injury is anemic anoxia. In this type of injury, as opposed to stagnant anoxia, sufficient blood reaches the brain, but that blood is unable to carry enough oxygen to meet the brain’s needs. Although many conditions can lead to anemic anoxia, this is most commonly seen in certain types of lung disease, and in patients with chronic anemia.
The next broad category of hypoxic-anoxic brain injury is toxic anoxia. In this type of injury, a toxin in the patient’s body keeps the body from using the oxygen in the blood efficiently, thus depriving the brain of its needed oxygen. This can result from poisoning of many types (such as carbon monoxide poisoning). It can also result from overdose or the chronic use of drugs.
The last broad category of hypoxic-anoxic brain injury is the redundantly-named anoxic anoxia. In this type of hypoxic-anoxic brain injury, the air itself lacks the necessary oxygen to provide for the brain’s needs. This is most common at high altitudes.
The symptoms and consequences of hypoxic-anoxic brain injury vary from case to case, depending on the type and cause of injury and the severity of that injury. In milder cases, hypoxic-anoxic brain injury can result in rapid breathing, dizziness or lightheadedness, sweating or a feeling of warmth, “tunnel vision” or “blacking out,” sleepiness, and changes in behavior (most often laughter or an inexplicable sense of euphoria). More severe cases, however, patients can become confused and lose conciousness. Patients can then suffer, for hours to years after the injury, from twitches, seizures, and other common symptoms of brain injury, such as cognitive and memory problems. In the most severe of cases, patients can be left in a temporary or permanent coma, or can lose their life.
Hypoxic-anoxic brain injury can result from circumstances outside anyone’s control, or can result from medical negligence. For example, hypoxic-anoxic brain injury can be the result of the failure to diagnose an underlying condition (such as heart attack or stroke) in time to prevent the injury to the brain. Also common is injury from medical negligence at childbirth. Hypoxic-anoxic brain injury can also stem from medical negligence in the form of an anesthesia problem, or incorrect prescriptions resulting in harmful drug interactions or drug overdose.
Victims of hypoxic-anoxic brain injury stemming from medical malpractice may be able to recover for their injuries from those that caused them. If you or someone you love has suffered a hypoxic-anoxic brain injury, an experienced professional can help you determine whether medical negligence was to blame in your case, and can help you to seek justice.
For a Free Consultation with a top-rated Chicago birth injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.