Cerebral hypoxia refers to a condition in which there is decreased oxygen supply to the brain even though there is good blood flow. The more common causes of hypoxia or anoxia (no oxygen to the brain) are head trauma, complications of general anesthesia (medication to put a person to sleep) and cardiac arrest. Brain cells are extremely sensitive to the lack of oxygen and can begin to die within five minutes after the oxygen supply has been cut off. When hypoxia (too little oxygen to the brain) lasts for longer periods of time, it can cause coma, seizures, and even brain death. During recovery the patient may experience forgetfulness, personality changes, and hallucinations (seeing things that are not present); the longer a patient remains unconscious the greater the risk of poor functional recovery.
Patients with severe brain damage due to the lack of oxygen have a limited amount of recovery and will present in one of these states:
Coma (Unconscious): a condition in which the person appears to be sleeping, but is unable to be aroused.
Vegetative state: wakeful unresponsiveness,” a person who is neither in a coma nor conscious. MBR>
Conscious: a person is awake and able to interact with the environment.
As with any trauma patient the medical staff will provide the best possible care for every patient. However, in severe anoxic or hypoxic head injury patients the doctor and healthcare team will discuss, in detail, the realistic future of the patient’s quality of life.