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Oxygen Deprivation: What to Know

Written by Berkowitz

a patient receiving oxygen administration during a procedureOxygen deprivation, more commonly referred to as cerebral hypoxia, involves a reduced supply of oxygen to the brain. When the brain is completely deprived of oxygen, it is known as cerebral anoxia. There are four categories of hypoxia, which are presented below in order of severity. These include:

  1. Diffuse cerebral hypoxia,
  2. Focal cerebral ischemia,
  3. Cerebral infarction, and
  4. Global cerebral ischemia.

Prolonged oxygen deprivation can induce neuronal cell death via apoptosis, which results in a brain injury. Cases of total oxygen deprivation are called “anoxia” and/or “ischemic.”

Signs and Symptoms of Oxygen Deprivation

The brain is simple and doesn’t require much, but it does demand at least 3.3 ml of oxygen per 100 g of brain tissue in order to thrive per minute. If your oxygen level is low, the body will respond by redirecting blood to the brain and increase its cerebral flow levels. Blood flow can increase up to twice the normal flow, but that is it. If the increased flow is sufficient enough to restore oxygen, then the symptoms will subside or no symptoms may be present.

If blood flow does not return oxygenation to the appropriate level, the patient will then suffer from symptoms that include:

  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulties with learning tasks
  • Cognitive disturbances
  • Decreased motor control
  • Bluish tint to the skin
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fainting
  • Long-term loss of consciousness
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Brain death

The Classifications of Oxygen Deprivation

There are four classes of oxygen deprivation:

  1. Diffuse Cerebral Hypoxia – This is a mild to moderate impairment of brain function that is often restored without complication.
  2. Focal Cerebral Ischemia – This is a stroke that occurs in a localized area that can be acute or transient. It may be due to a variety of medical conditions, such as an aneurysm. This type of deprivation constitutes a majority of clinical cases in stroke studies.
  3. Global Cerebral Ischemia – This is a complete stoppage of all blood flow to the brain and lack of  oxygen.
  4. Cerebral Infarction – This is a stroke caused by complete oxygen deprivation and an interference of cerebral blood flow. It will affect multiple areas of the brain.

What Causes Oxygen Deprivation?

A variety of events can cause deprivation of oxygen. The events can be internal or external in the body and range from mild to moderate. There are also some infections and diseases that can affect blood flow to the brain – such as anemia or severe asthma. Working in nitrogen-rich environments or flying at high altitudes in an unpressurized cabin can also lead to decreased blood flow.

Oxygen deprivation can also happen to a fetus during or after birth. Hypoxic-anoxic events affect the fetus at different stages of development as well, and can significantly impact the fetus’s quality of life. Problems during labor are typically the most common cause of fetal distress and oxygen deprivation.

Were You Deprived of Oxygen Due to a Medical Error?

Medical errors can lead to hypoxia in children or adults. Often, it is due to inadequate monitoring or delayed diagnosis of certain conditions. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured because of oxygen deprivation, contact a medical malpractice attorney for a case assessment right away. Contact the experts at Berkowitz and Hanna LLC today to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation. Call us or contact us online to get started.