What is Anoxic Brain Injury?
Anoxic Brain Injury is a condition when the brain is deprived of oxygen supply as a result of which the brain cells start dying approximately after four minutes. Anoxic Brain Injury can be caused due to several reasons such as carbon monoxide poisoning, drowning etc which we will look at in detail in this article.
What is Hypoxic Brain Injury?
Hypoxic brain injuries are those similar to anoxic brain injuries but in this case, the death of brain cells is not instant but gradual, over a period of weeks or months or may be years. This too is caused due to lowered supply of blood (oxygen) to the brain cells.
Causes of Anoxic Brain Injury
- Brain Stroke
Brain stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain (to a specific part or multiple parts) is interrupted or reduced resulting in reduced supply of oxygen to those areas. For example, formation of blood clots can interrupt supply of blood to the connecting areas of the brain.
- Heart Attack / Cardiac Failure
As you may be aware, a functioning heart is the reason why blood is pumped to every organ and cell of our body. When the heart stops, the flow of blood is stopped disrupting the supply of oxygen to the brain. If the heart is not resuscitated in time, each part of the brain starts dying leading to death.
- Very low blood pressure / hypotension
A little lowered blood pressure may not be a problem but when the blood pressure drops to very low levels, the brain may not get enough blood (and oxygen) leading to anoxic brain injury. Very low blood pressure can also lead to heart failure.
- Drowning or near drowning
When a person drowns, lungs are filled up with water. As a result, the entire body (including the brain) is deprived of oxygen. Without out oxygen, the heart stops functioning and the brain cells (and every cell in the body) start dying eventually leading to death.
- Carbon Monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas. Carbon monoxide being an unstable gas, takes up the surrounding oxygen to turn into carbon dioxide. This effectively removes oxygen from the air around it. Breathing carbon monoxide blocks the entry of oxygen into the body when delayed may be fatal.
When food or other object/substance gets stuck in the airway, it can block the passage of air into the lungs leading to deprivation of oxygen to the body. This can result in death of brain cells in a matter of minutes if the blockage is not removed.
- Medication overdose
Overdose of certain medications can lower the heart rate and affect the breathing mechanism of the body. As breathing and heart beat slows down, this results in reduced supply of oxygen to the brain leading to death of brain cells.
Symptoms of reduced oxygen supply to the brain
If the oxygen supply is completely cut off, that can result in death of brain cells from the fourth minute. In a matter of minutes, each part of the brain starts drying resulting in total brain death. Anoxic or hypoxic brain injuries can initially lead to losing consciousness (coma state) and when the supply of oxygen takes longer, the person may go into vegetative state. (A state where the body keeps functioning but many parts of the brain don’t). Symptoms of lack of oxygen supply to the brain can show up as:
- Unable to balance and walk
- Vision problems
- Problem forming sentences and trouble speaking and swallowing.
- Problems with sleep
- Concentration problems & Memory issues
- Mood swings, lack of attention
- Losing motor skills
- Changes in bowel movements and bladder control problems
Treatment for anoxia and hypoxia with HBOT
Anoxia is a complete cut off of oxygen to the brain and must be treated in time. Whereas the person suffering from hypoxia will have enough time to get treated. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy involves supplying the body with 100% oxygen at 2 to 2.5 times the normal atmospheric pressure. Due to the supply of pure oxygen and at higher pressures, more oxygen is dissolved in the blood cells and in plasma that is supplied to every cell in the body including the brain cells. This can prevent the death of brain cells and can revitalize the neurons in the brain.
HBOT has shown tremendous improvement in patients suffering from ischemic strokes as it helps in regeneration of blood vessels and supplies oxygen to the parts of the brain that are deprived of it.