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Hypoxic Injuries

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In order to function properly, the brain must receive a constant flow of oxygen; hypoxic injuries occur when there is an interruption in the flow of oxygen to the brain.

Warning Signs

In adults, hypoxic injuries are generally marked by an initial loss of consciousness or a coma. Other symptoms may include hallucinations, delusions, increased agitation and confusion, poor judgment, memory loss, depression, and personality changes. Brain cells are extremely sensitive to oxygen deprivation and can begin to die within five minutes after oxygen supply has been cut off.

Diagnosis & Care

In order to function properly, the brain must receive a constant flow of oxygen; hypoxic injuries occur when there is an interruption in the flow of oxygen to the brain. Even a partial oxygen interruption can adversely affect vital processes including physical, cognitive, and psychological functioning. The brain’s ability to recover from hypoxic injuries depends primarily on which part of the brain is affected.

In adults, hypoxic injuries can result from a heart attack or stroke, or from anesthesia accidents and other medical mistakes. In babies, hypoxic injuries can occur during birth and can be caused by strangulation, anesthetic accidents, or poisoning. According to the American Psychological Association, “when an infant has received an inadequate supply of oxygen during labor or delivery, it may cause brain injury.” Hypoxia during delivery is associated with lower intelligence and language skill deficiencies later in life.


Hypoxic injuries can have devastating effects on the lives of those who are injured, as well as family, friends, and caregivers. Treatment can be extremely costly and complex. When the injuries sustained are long-term disabilities, substantial medical and rehabilitative services may be required. A dearth of easy-to-understand, accessible information about hypoxic injuries makes these life-altering situations even more stressful for those who are affected. The medical malpractice lawyers at the Law Office of Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt can help you and your family obtain compensation; contact us for a free consultation.

Treatment Centers

Treatment for hypoxic injuries depends on the degree of oxygen deprivation as well as which parts of the brain are affected. Generally, health care providers try to stabilize and maintain the body’s status through basic life-support systems. Approaches might include mechanical ventilation, and supplying fluids, bloods products, and medications to support blood pressure and heart rate. Once an individual with a hypoxic injury is stabilized, medical providers must determine to what extent he or she can recover, which can take months or years. In severe circumstances, a person may never regain complete functioning. Rehabilitation typically includes interactions with doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, neurologists, and/or neuropsychologists.

Books & Resources

For more information on hypoxic injuries, the following resources are available:

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