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Our Brains, Without Oxygen

Our brains are needy. They use one-fifth of our body’s total energy, more than any other organ. Twenty percent of the oxygen we take in goes straight to the brain. When our supply of oxygen is interrupted, brain function is disturbed immediately. It doesn’t take long for us to lose consciousness. After about four minutes without oxygen, brain damage begins.

Brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen is known as either anoxic or hypoxic brain injury. Hypoxic injuries occur when the brain is partially deprived of oxygen; anoxic injuries occur when the brain is completely deprived of oxygen.

Causes of anoxic injury include:

  • Choking
  • Near drowning
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Complications of general anesthesia

Anoxic brain injuries can have similar effects to traumatic brain injuries though the way the brain is damaged differs greatly. Anoxic injuries can damage all parts of the brain. But certain areas are more vulnerable to damage when our oxygen supply is diminished or cut off.

Our brains need oxygen to transport glucose to brain cells. Glucose, otherwise known as blood sugar, is an important energy source. Every cell in our body needs glucose; we use it a “fuel.” Some cells require more energy than others. Brain cells need a lot of energy. The nerve cells of the brain have an incredibly high demand. Areas of the brain like the cerebral cortex, the hippocampus and the cerebellum are particularly sensitive to the lack of oxygen.

Unlike many traumatic brain injuries, where the victim’s brain may be able to heal, anoxic brain damage is irreparable.

Brain injuries can be devastating. We’ve dedicated ourselves to representing victims of traumatic and anoxic brain injury. Many victims require extensive, costly rehabilitation. Others, like Jacob Helvey, will require around-the-clock care as long as they live.

-Dave Krugler

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