Hypoxic/Anoxic Brain Injury: What You Must Know

Categories: Brain Injury

A doctor reviewing a hypoxic brain injury results.

Unlike a traumatic brain injury that involves acute physical trauma, a hypoxic or anoxic brain injury results from a lack of oxygen to the brain. A stroke is a typical example of brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen. However, strokes are not the only cause of hypoxic and anoxic brain injuries. Some of these brain injuries are caused by another party’s negligence. Depending on the circumstances, you could have a valid personal injury claim for a hypoxic or anoxic brain injury. To learn more, speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Washington at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner, PLLC.

What Are Anoxic Brain Injuries?

Anoxic brain injuries result from a complete lack of oxygen to the brain. The brain cells die after approximately four minutes of no oxygen. When someone almost drowns, they suffer a complete lack of oxygen, resulting in an anoxic brain injury.

What Are Hypoxic Brain Injuries?

Hypoxic brain injuries form because there was a restriction of oxygen to the brain. The restricted flow causes a slower death of brain cells when compared to anoxic brain injuries. It is a low oxygen condition, but brain cells can start to die quickly as well, so hypoxic brain injuries are just as dangerous as anoxic brain injuries.

Causes of Anoxic and Hypoxic Brain Injuries

Anoxic or hypoxic brain injuries can occur in a variety of ways. Some causes include:

  • Cardiac arrest, heart attack, or cardiac arrhythmia;
  • Severe asthma that goes untreated;
  • Stroke;
  • Chronic anemia;
  • Massive bleeding;
  • Near-drowning, choking, or suffocating;
  • Electrical shock;
  • Obstructive sleep apnea;
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD);
  • Opioid or other types of drug overdose;
  • Trauma to the chest;
  • Being caught in a collapse, such as in a tunnel, building, or trench;
  • Anesthesia errors;
  • Smoke inhalation during a fire;
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome; and
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning.

If someone has heart disease risk factors, such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol, they could be at a higher risk for hypoxic or anoxic brain injuries.

What Are the Symptoms of a Hypoxic or Anoxic Brain Injury?

Symptoms in hypoxic or anoxic brain injuries may mimic those of a traumatic brain injury. No two people will have identical symptoms; they will vary based on the injury and the person’s health risk factors. The first symptom is usually being unconscious. In severe brain injuries, the person could fall into a vegetative state.

Some people may not show additional symptoms right away either. It could be days or even weeks in some cases. Possible symptoms include:

  • Confusion;
  • Headache;
  • Blurred vision;
  • Difficulty swallowing;
  • Trouble communicating or slurred speech;
  • Seizures or convulsions;
  • Coordination and balance issues;
  • Personality changes and mood swings;
  • Delusions or hallucinations;
  • Altered sensory perceptions;
  • Issues with memory, thinking, or concentration;
  • Disrupted sleep pattern;
  • Sexual function changes; and
  • Incontinence.

You should seek immediate medical attention with any loss of consciousness, even if it’s just a brief one. If there are any signs of a stroke, lack of oxygen, heart attack, or other possible circumstances previously mentioned here, it’s best to get emergency treatment. Seeking immediate medical assistance is crucial with potential brain injuries.

Evaluating Brain Injuries

In many cases, patients end up in the hospital emergency room, where they undergo an evaluation. A neurologist will look at the symptoms and likely prescribe an MRI and/or CT scan to help diagnose what’s going on. Once the patient is stable, they will be given other assessments to determine the damage and their rehabilitation needs.

Possible assessments include a neurological evaluation, which is a non-invasive exam. It tests the patient’s mental capabilities, including memory and learning, concentration, language and communication, planning, sensory and motor functions, abstract thinking, and more. The patient is asked questions, which can last several hours.

The patient may also be given an independent medical examination to help determine the cause and extent of the injury. Finally, the treating physician might administer a series of other evaluations to determine what the patient needs rehabilitation-wise for physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy if necessary.

Negligence and Hypoxic and Anoxic Brain Injuries

Depending on the brain injury circumstances, you could have the legal right to bring a personal injury claim against the negligent party. Our personal injury attorneys in Washington can review your case and medical records to determine whether another party’s actions caused the brain injury.

The type of personal injury claim you might file will vary based on the circumstances of the damage. For example, consider a case where your loved one was trapped in a demolished building while carrying out their work duties. There could be a workers’ compensation claim as well as a third-party liability claim against another party, such as a contractor or property owner. Or perhaps the brain injury occurred during a medical procedure that went awry. This situation would require a medical malpractice claim.

Proving liability in a brain injury case is crucial; otherwise, you will not be able to collect compensation for your damages. It will be necessary to find a causal link between the at-fault party’s actions and the hypoxic or anoxic brain injury. That is one reason why hiring a skilled attorney is so important. Your attorney will know how to build a strong case against the responsible parties.

It could be necessary to hire medical experts and other professionals who can go over all available evidence to help determine who the responsible parties are. They may be able to make an educated opinion on when the oxygen loss occurred.

Hiring a Brain Injury Lawyer in Washington

Suppose you or someone you love suffered a hypoxic or anoxic brain injury that you believe was caused by another party’s negligence. In that case, it’s crucial to speak with our personal injury lawyers in Washington right away. We have years of experience handling brain injury cases. We know what to look for and how best to proceed. Contact Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC today to schedule an initial consultation. Let us put our expertise to work for you and help you and your family get the maximum compensation you are owed.

Author Photo

Matt Conner

Matt Conner has a proven track record of success. Following his graduation from Willamette University with a double major in mathematics and economics, Matt worked as an economist for the Office of Economic Analysis for the State of Oregon before moving onto working in mortgage banking and real estate.