Thursday, June 16, 2022

How Long Can Your Brain Go Without Oxygen

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Low Blood Oxygen Levels = Hypoxemia


Your blood oxygen level is the amount of oxygen circulating in your blood. When blood oxygen levels drop below normal, a condition known as hypoxemia occurs. In COPD, hypoxemia is a problem related to your breathing. Hypoxemia is determined by measuring the amount of oxygen present in a blood sample taken from an artery using an ABG test. Your oxygen saturation can also be estimated using a pulse oximeter, a small device that attaches to your finger and measures the oxygen saturation level in your blood.

The amount of gas in a system is defined by the amount of pressure exerted by that gas. This pressure is traditionally measured as height in millimeters of a column of mercury .Normal arterial blood oxygen levels as measured by an arterial blood gas range from 75 to 100 millimeters of mercury , which is a measurement of the amount of oxygen that is dissolved in the arterial blood. According to the Mayo Clinic, values under 60 mm Hg usually indicate that a person needs supplemental oxygen. Normal oxygen saturation levels as measured by pulse oximetry range from 95% to 100%. Values under 90% are considered low.

Does that mean you should panic if you have an oxygen level 89? Not necessarily. And, now that you have a better understanding of this measurement system, what should your oxygen level be?

What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor About Cerebral Hypoxia

If a loved one has cerebral hypoxia, you may want to ask a healthcare provider:

  • How severe is the brain injury?
  • Would physical, occupational or speech therapy help?
  • Can any medications help improve symptoms?
  • Whats the long-term prognosis?
  • Should I look out for signs of complications?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Cerebral hypoxia requires immediate medical care. The longer a person goes without oxygen, the greater the risk of severe brain damage and brain death. Recovery from cerebral hypoxia often involves physical, occupational and speech therapies. Your healthcare provider can connect you with resources that can aid recovery.

How Long Can The Brain Survive Without Oxygen

Lack of oxygen in the brain will cause permanent brain damage in as little as four minutes. Another four to six minutes without the brain receiving blood will result in increased brain damage, coma and then death. In order to reduce the chances of permanent or anoxic brain damage in a person who is unconscious, CPR should be performed until their breathing and heartbeat return or until qualified medical help arrives.

The primary causes that result in an adult not breathing or having a heartbeat are accidents and injuries, excessive bleeding, infection in the bloodstream, near-drowning, drug overdose and abnormal hearth rhythms, and heart attacks that are associated with heart disease. Health issues or accidents such as choking, suffocation, drug use, carbon monoxide poisoning from malfunctioning gas appliances, electrical shock and heart arrhythmia can increase the chances of losing consciousness, which can result in anoxic brain damage.

If a person receives mild to moderate hypoxic brain damage from experiencing any of these conditions and is resuscitated, they may end up suffering from symptoms such as seizures, confusion, headaches, decreased attention span and concentration, poor coordination, occasional loss of consciousness and personality changes or mood swings.

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How Is Oxygen Carried To The Brain

The brain needs oxygen to perform conscious and autonomic processes. In fact, the brain utilizes roughly 20 percent of the bodys total oxygen supply. Cutting it off can have very serious consequences.

How oxygen and the brain work is simple. Oxygen is carried to the brain through red blood cells. They move from the lungs through the cardiovascular system and up to the brain as well as through the rest of the body. Something like a blood clot can block the flow of oxygen to the brain. A major bleeding wound can cause shortages in the oxygen thats able to be moved to the brain. These are not the only causes.

How Long Can The Brain Go Without Oxygen A Timeline

How Long Can The Brain Go Without Oxygen

How long can the brain survive without oxygen? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. For example, if the brain is receiving a limited supply of oxygen, it can survive longer than a brain receiving no oxygen. According to MedlinePlus, a resource of the U.S. National Library of Medicine:

Brain cells are very sensitive to a lack of oxygen. Some brain cells start dying less than 5 minutes after their oxygen supply disappears. As a result, brain hypoxia can rapidly cause severe brain damage or death.

When a brain goes an extended period with a lack of oxygen, neural cells begin to die through a process called apoptosis. Although some brain cell death usually occurs throughout a persons life, large numbers of brain cells dying simultaneously can result in diminished brain function or brain death.

However, the amount of time the brain can survive without oxygen before brain damage occurs will vary from person to person. According to the University of California, Santa Barbaras UCSB ScienceLine website, the brain can withstand three to six minutes without oxygen before brain damage occurs.

Regular training can help increase the bodys efficiency concerning oxygen consumption, allowing the brain to last for more extended periods without a fresh oxygen supply. For example, a professional freediver from Spain holds the Guinness World Record of holding his breath for 24 minutes and 3.45 seconds.

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How Can I Lower My Risk Of Cerebral Hypoxia

Its important to manage conditions like high blood pressure. Conditions that can cause a heart attack or stroke increase the risk of cerebral hypoxia.

You can also take safety measures to lower the risk of accidents that cause cerebral hypoxia. You and your family can:

  • Buckle up with seatbelts.
  • Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
  • Use life vests, swim at places that have lifeguards and supervise children around water, including bathtubs.
  • Wear helmets during high-impact physical activities or while biking, skating or skiing.

Comparison Of Coma Vegetative State And Minimally Conscious State


As with the VS and MCS, how fast people recover and how much they recover from the confusional state may vary. Most people who reach the confusional state make further progress. The severity of their brain injury and related health problems determine the degree of recovery. The less time the person is in the confusional state, the better their recovery will be. Mild problems such as poor sleep or urinary tract infections may lengthen the confusional state, but they may not affect the outcome.

Once the confusional state ends, people can usually pay attention, keep track of place and time, and hold onto memories of daily experiences again. They will likely still have serious cognitive problems such as impaired attention or memory or slowed thinking. These problems are likely to get better over time. While some people make limited progress, others make a good deal of progress.

This image shows patterns of recovery that may follow coma. Some people wake up quickly from coma they may briefly stay in the MCS before further recovery. They may also have mild impairments. Others may be in the MCS for a long time after emerging from the VS. They usually have more long-term impairment. Slow recovery may continue for several years, especially for those with traumatic injuries. Sometimes, people stay in the VS or MCS for a long time. In some cases, these conditions may be permanent.

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What Factors Affect Brain Oxygen Deprivation Symptoms

Medical researchers are continually seeking new and more effective ways to slow the progress of hypoxia in patients and treat various forms of brain damage. One such method is the use of cold therapy, or what is known as hypothermia treatment. This form of treatment has been used to treat brain injuries that result from trauma or a lack of oxygen for many years. The idea is that chilling the brain helps to slow metabolic processes, which reduces the amount of oxygen the brain needs to maintain body function. However, studies show a mix of positive and negative results.

Methods of treatment for hypoxic brain injuries include speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy, counseling and support groups, exercise, and nutritional counseling.

To learn more about brain injuries and traumatic brain injuries, be sure to check out our complimentary guide by clicking on the link below.

Transitions To Different Levels Of Care

How long can your brain survive without oxygen?

During recovery, people in the VS or the MCS may get care in many settings. A person with a DOC will likely start treatment in an acute care hospital the focus is on saving the patients life and stabilizing the patient. Once those needs are met, the focus moves to restoring as much function as possible. Sometimes this takes place in an acute rehabilitation hospital. These hospitals provide high-intensity, team-oriented services. Services include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, recreational therapy, neuropsychological services, and medical and nursing care.

Some patients dont go from the acute care hospital to an acute rehab program. These patients may go directly to a long-term acute care hospital , a skilled nursing facility , a subacute rehab program, or a nursing home. They may also go home with family or have home health care or outpatient treatment. People who get care in an acute rehab program first are usually discharged to one of these places as well.

When patients are medically unstable or dont show signs of recovery for a long time, doctors may consider palliative care. In this type of care, the focus of treatment shifts from recovery to comfort.

Many factors affect where a person with severe DOC or other severe impairments goes after leaving an acute care hospital or rehab program. These factors include:

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How A Brain Injury Lawyer Can Help You Or Your Loved One

The aftermath of oxygen deprivation and brain damage can be overwhelming and downright frightening. If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury that caused the brain to go without oxygen due to someone elses negligence, we want to hear from you. Whether its tied to a drowning accident, a spinal cord injury, or something else, an injured victim deserves the treatment and support they are owed. Contact a brain injury lawyer today to speak with an expert who can inform you of your legal options.

Causes Of Anoxic And Hypoxic Brain Injuries

  • Hypoxicischemic injury, also known as stagnant anoxia, may:
  • occur when oxygen-carrying blood cannot reach the brain, resulting in oxygen deprivation.
  • be caused by strokes, but can also be caused by other pulmonary conditions, such as cardiac arrest or cardiac arrhythmia.
  • Anemic anoxia: Anemic anoxia occurs when the blood cannot properly carry enough oxygen or if there is not enough blood in the body itself to support the oxygen needs of the brain .
  • Toxic anoxia: Toxic anoxia occurs when chemicals or poisons hinder the ability of the brain to receive oxygen from blood cells.
  • Anoxic anoxia: Anoxic anoxia is caused by the lack of oxygen in the air, resulting in suffocation.
  • Call our Admissions Department at 404-350-7345 to initiate a referral to Shepherd Center.

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    Things To Look For When Considering A Setting To Care For Your Loved One:

    Here are some things to look for when choosing a place for care:

    • Your family members current treatment team has received good feedback about the programs quality of care when they have referred others there.
    • The staff make you feel comfortable. They are available to talk about your concerns, and they answer your questions.
    • The program has a multidisciplinary treatment team that, at a minimum, includes a rehabilitation physician, nurse, speech pathologist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, psychologist, and social worker.
    • The treatment team meets together to identify treatment goals and review progress.
    • The program and treatment staff have worked with the same kinds of problems that your family member has.
    • The facility knows about the specific care your loved one needs and can meet those needs. You can help to make sure that a detailed nursing care plan is created.
    • The program includes case management to help plan for the next level of care, whether its moving to a rehabilitation program, an LTACH, a SNF, or home.
    • The program provides education and training for future caregivers.
    • The program has a systematic approach to measure progress in all patients.
    • The program is guided by recommendations for rehab programs from the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine and the NIDILRRs Traumatic Brain Injury Model System.
    • The program receives good grades in state and/or federal quality ratings

    Duration Of The Anoxic Episode

    How long the brain can go without oxygen

    The outcome will be determined by how extensive the damage to the brain has been. This will depend on the length of time the brain was deprived of oxygen, which can often be estimated from information about what has happened. For example, it may be known that it took 15 minutes to restore a normal heart beat after a cardiac arrest, or that someone was immersed in a swimming pool for six minutes in a near drowning incident.

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    What Is Birth Asphyxia

    Asphyxia is a condition in which the body and, most importantly, the brain receives inadequate, or no, oxygen supply. Choking and hyperventilating are everyday examples that cause lack of oxygen to the brain. It was once thought that asphyxia due to complications at birth was the cause of Cerebral Palsy. Now it is estimated that asphyxia accounts for only 6-8% of all Cerebral Palsy cases.

    Events that can lead to birth asphyxia include, but are not limited to:

    • Umbilical cord problems, such as a prolapsed cord, that can choke the child during delivery
    • Excessive hemorrhaging while pregnant or during delivery
    • Abnormal presentation where the baby does not enter the birth canal head first during labor
    • Prolonged or traumatic delivery due to the babys head being too large to fit through the birth canal, known as cephalopelvic disproportion
    • Delivery involving shoulder dystocia, a very serious situation where one or both shoulders impede delivery
    • Maternal shock, a complication of heavy bleeding and fetal distress which can lead to placenta abruption

    What Causes Lack Of Oxygen To The Brain

    To understand what can cause a lack of oxygen to the brain, these fall into the anoxic and hypoxic categories.

    For an anoxic brain injury, the cause has to cut off oxygen altogether. A blood clot or stroke does this. A severe asthma attack, going into cardiac or respiratory arrest, suffocation, carbon monoxide poisoning or toxic smoke inhalation, a drug overdose or poisoning, an intense electric shock, or extremely low blood pressure tied to blood loss or disrupted cardiac functioning can cause oxygen to not be sent to the brain.

    Under a hypoxic brain injury, the causes are quite similar. A blood clot or stroke can reduce the oxygen to the brain, as can carbon monoxide poisoning, smoke inhalation, and any blockage of the airway. High altitudes and pressure or compression of the trachea are also causes. Certain physical conditions that prevent movement of the breathing muscles, such as paralysis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis , can also be a cause.

    A common cause of hypoxic brain injury is also drowning. Even in shallow water, if someone is rendered unconscious and goes under they will experience oxygen deprivation immediately. Whether its a hotel pool, lake, public pool, or a water park, many drowning victims who survive having experienced a lack of oxygen reaching their brain sustain permanent neurological and psychological damage.

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    How Long Does Brain Fog Last And Can You Clear It Quickly

    Two very common questions about brain fog are, How long does brain fog last, and Can you clear it quickly. Brain fog is a frustrating and draining experience that is all-encompassing. With brain fog, you cant think clearly, remember things big and small, or focus and concentrate .

    It can seem like youre trapped in a gauzy shroud, able to see the world around you but unable to fully join it or find the words to call out for help. Brain fog is not an enjoyable condition, and asking how long brain fog lasts and how you can clear it quickly are logical questions. Read on for some answers and the beginning of the end of your brain fog.

    How Does Lack Of Oxygen Affect The Brain

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    Your brain runs your nervous system. It needs oxygen to function. In fact, the brain uses about a fifth of your bodys total oxygen supply. Oxygen helps send nerve signals and messages throughout the body.

    When the brain doesnt get enough oxygen, brain cells begin to die. Cell death happens within 5 minutes of low oxygen.

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    Symptoms Of Your Brain Deprived Of Oxygen

    Mild symptoms of oxygen deprivation can include things like memory loss and problems with movement or motor functioning. More severe cases of a brain deprived of oxygen will typically see symptoms such as a seizure and brain death, heart fluctuations, and more. A person may also experience the following during the event or after.

    • An inability to speak clearly.
    • Delusions, an inability to make judgments, and/or an inability to recognize and be aware of their surroundings.
    • Difficulty learning new information or, alternatively, problems remembering and recalling names and events.
    • An inability to follow directions or to perform complex tasks.
    • A struggle to keep hands or feet sturdy and/or to produce movement in the way they once did.
    • An inability to coordinate motor skills, such as having trouble writing or difficulty walking.
    • An inability to think clearly, sometimes seeing visible hallucinations, sports, or multiple vision.
    • A dramatic personality change and/or frequent mood swings.
    • The brain may be left unable to process pain signals correctly, causing a person chronic pain and/or for there to be a feeling of pain somewhere where there is not an obvious injury.
    • Impulsive behaviour that can be hyper-aggressive, inappropriate for the environment, or sexual.
    • The development of depression, anxiety, or similar mental health disorders.
    • Sudden, rapid aging of the brain, similar to dementia and resulting in very similar symptoms.

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