Ischemic brain damage is an injury to the brain caused by lack of adequate oxygen supplies. There can be a number of causes for this condition and the prognosis depends on the extent and location of the damage. Some patients make a full recovery while others may experience permanent impairments. In severe cases, patients fall into a coma or die in the wake of ischemic brain damage because their brains cannot compensate for the amount of damage present.
A classic cause of ischemic brain damage is ischemic stroke, where the flow of blood to part of the brain is cut off and the patient's brain cells do not get enough oxygen. This can also occur in cases of strangulation, in the wake of severe brain injuries, or in patients with severe lung disease. These patients may not be able to get enough oxygen into their blood supply, and as a result, the brain cells start to die off because they can't get enough oxygen to function.
In cases of ischemic brain damage, a situation known as the ischemic cascade occurs. At first, a few brain cells die because they cannot get the oxygen they need, while others continue to function. The cell deaths trigger the release of various chemical compounds that kill neighboring cells. These cells die, releasing their own chemicals, and cause a chain reaction in the brain. Until treatment stops the chain reaction, the patient's ischemic brain damage will spread.
Symptoms of ischemic brain damage can include blurred vision, slurred speech, and difficulty walking. A medical imaging study should show decreased brain activity and may also reveal blocked blood vessels and other issues inside the brain. Treatments involve addressing the cause to resupply the damaged area of the brain with fresh blood. For example, if a patient has a blood clot, the doctor might use a catheter to insert a small coil to clear the clot and open up the blood vessel, allowing blood to flow again.
Prevention of ischemic brain damage relies on treating brain injuries as quickly as possible. Patients who receive aggressive care within the first few hours are more likely to experience a favorable outcome. If a patient has permanent cognitive impairments, the doctor may recommend therapy to relearn certain skills. The brain can be an extremely elastic organ, and it is possible for patients to develop the ability to compensate for the loss of brain function.