What Is Cerebral Anoxia?

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  • Written By: Jami Yontz
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2018
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Cerebral anoxia, a type of cerebral hypoxia, is a condition where the brain is completely deprived of oxygen. The lack of oxygen, either from a blockage of supply or from the brain’s inability to metabolize the oxygen, can cause severe and lasting damage to the brain and other areas of the body. Without oxygen the brain cells will begin to die, so restoring oxygen supply as soon as possible to prevent further damage is highly important for someone experiencing cerebral anoxia.

This condition can be the result of numerous conditions and injuries. A stroke, heart attack, or pulmonary embolism could cause the oxygen flow to the brain to cease. Sufferers of sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or other breathing issues may also experience it. Cerebral anoxia could also be caused by environmental factors, activities, or events. A person trapped in a fire who inhales a large quantity of smoke may be deprived of oxygen, and those who perform deep sea diving expeditions or high altitude trips are at risk of losing a supply of oxygen. During labor a fetus could be deprived of oxygen for a period of time, and people involved in accidents that suffer a large amount of blood loss could also experience cerebral anoxia.


If the brain is deprived of oxygen for even a short period of time, there can be severe complications. The brain receives oxygen from the blood, which is pumped to all the organs in the body by the heart. A human brain needs nearly 20 percent of the oxygen in the body, and when the supply is decreased or completely shut off, the person’s neurological functions and muscle coordination begin to deteriorate. Brain cells will begin to die within the first four minutes after the oxygen supply has ceased. The sooner the person can regain oxygen there is a less likely chance that permanent brain damage or brain death could occur.

If hypoxia occurs, the person may begin to appear confused or have a lack of coordination of his or her limbs. When hypoxia develops into anoxia, the person will be lifeless and unresponsive. The person’s heart will continue to function, but he or she may be in a coma. Memory loss is usually a result of anoxia, but many people also experience personality and emotional changes. Problems with vision, motor skills, and processing information may also occur. Cerebral anoxia is a severe condition, and medical assistance should be found immediately.



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