Cerebral hypoxia takes place when the brain (and eventually the entire body) is not getting enough oxygen to stay alive. Hypoxic brain injury occurs when there is a decrease in the oxygen supply to the brain. This can be caused by many things such as a head injury, carbon monoxide poisoning, a rapid drop in blood pressure or a heart attack. Brain cells will begin to die if there is not enough oxygen, and after five minutes the person can fall into a coma, experience seizures and the brain will begin to die. The lack of oxygen that causes hypoxia can also be caused by medical mistakes that take place in operating rooms and delivery rooms under emergency conditions.
Medical causes of hypoxia
There are several different medical mistakes that can occur in a health care setting that can bring on a state of hypoxia that can lead to brain injuries, including:
- Birth-related injuries. The obstetrician might have failed to perform a Caesarian-section in time, failed to detect that the fetus was in distress, that the umbilical cord was prolapsed, or the baby was in the birth canal for too long. Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) is the damage to the cells in the central nervous system caused by lack of oxygen, and it can cause permanent complications.
- Anesthesia errors. The anesthesiologist might have failed to administer the proper dose of anesthesia, maintain the patient’s blood pressure during surgery, they might not have been aware of the patient’s allergy to a drug, or they could have used a defective ventilator.
- Excessive bleeding. A surgeon might have nicked a vein or an artery during surgery causing excessive bleeding, which can lead to a drop in blood pressure. This drop in pressure deprives the brain of the oxygen it needs to function and keep the body alive.
- Hypoglycemic encephalopathy. A patient who falls into a diabetic coma can suffer hypoxia because the brain is not getting an adequate supply of glucose to fuel its function.
- Overmedication. Some of the sedatives that doctors use act as anesthetics. Given in doses that are too high, and when the airway is not being monitored, these medications can cause the patient can go into respiratory and then cardiac arrest, which can cause brain injury, and eventually death if the patient does not get enough oxygen.
Symptoms of oxygen deprivation
When a person is experiencing hypoxia, the symptoms develop in a subtle way. As the brain gets less and less oxygen, the symptoms become more severe. The severity of the brain injury from hypoxia will depend on the length of time the brain was deprived of oxygen. Common symptoms of oxygen deprivation include:
- Breathing fast
- Loss of coordination
- Hot and cold flashes
- Cognitive problems
What are the long-term consequences of oxygen deprivation?
If an infant is deprived of oxygen too long during the birth process they can develop cerebral palsy or mental retardation. Health consequences for hypoxia for adults may include:
- Neurological impairment
- Memory loss
- Decline in executive brain function
- Lack of physical coordination
Hypoxia caused by medical malpractice can have far-reaching consequences in the life of the patient. Those who have a child who suffered from oxygen deprivation at birth, or who might have suffered hypoxia during a botched surgery can speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney at Crandall & Pera Law who will discuss all of the options available. We have offices in Ohio and Kentucky to serve you.