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How Long Without Oxygen Before Brain Damage

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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Pediatric Anoxic Brain Injury

How long can your brain survive without oxygen?

The severity of symptoms will depend on how long the child is without oxygen and the amount of brain damage. Intellectual, physical or emotional shortfalls may become apparent later, as the child continues to develop. Symptoms include:

  • Problems understanding and responding to emotions
  • Developmental delays
  • Difficulty with words, including using the right word or confusing similar terms
  • Impulsive behavior or poor decision-making skills
  • Problems understanding reasoning

How Long Can The Brain Go Without Oxygen

On Behalf of Donovan O’Connor & Dodig, LLP | Jan 30, 2015 | Brain Injuries

Few in North Adams may truly have a full appreciation for how remarkable the human brain is. Its capacity to process information and generate rapid sensory response causes researchers to marvel even today. Yet for as extraordinary as the brain is, its also extremely delicate. that deprive it of precious oxygen can leave one with debilitating damage. This begs the question of exactly how long one can go without oxygen before permanent brain damage occurs.

According to the website, the brain consumes roughly 25 percent of the bodys total oxygen supply. The deprivation of that supply following an accident or injury can cause brain cells to die. This is whats known as anoxic brain damage. Common causes of the conditions that can lead to such damage can be:

  • Heart attack
  • Drowning
  • Choking

Prolonged periods of time spent at high altitudes where there is less oxygen in the air or exposure to certain chemicals or poisons can also lead to oxygen deprivation to the brain.

Recovery following anoxic brain damage depends largely on the amount of time ones brain went without oxygen. Those with mild damage may be able to regain many of their lost motor and sensory functions, while others may never completely recover.

What Is Brain Death

First, one must clarify that everyone dies of “brain death.” Whether an old person suffers cardiac arrest resulting in the lack of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, or a younger person suffers a gunshot wound to the head resulting in brain death, it’s the same diagnosis.

The brain controls all our bodily functions, but there are three things it cannot do:

  • It cannot feel pain. The brain can feel pain from all over the body, but not within itself.
  • The brain cannot store oxygen. A person can feel a lack of oxygen after only a few seconds. When someone stands up too quickly and becomes dizzy, this is an example of the loss of blood flow to the brain that can be sensed.
  • The brain cannot store glucose . Diabetics who give themselves too much insulin can drop their blood sugar level and faint, and without immediate glucose infusion the brain can die.

The brain can survive for up to about six minutes after the heart stops. The reason to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation is that if CPR is started within six minutes of cardiac arrest, the brain may survive the lack of oxygen. After about six minutes without CPR, however, the brain begins to die. Prompt resuscitation allows the physician time to assess and treat the damaged brain. Medication and mechanical ventilation permit tissue oxygenation, but severe brain damage or a prolonged period without oxygen or glucose causes the death of the brain.

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Can Oxygen Deprivation Be Prevented

While not every negative birth outcome can be prevented, there are things that healthcare providers can do to reduce the risk of oxygen deprivation, and in some cases, even prevent it. Doctors, nurses and midwives all receive training on birth asphyxia. Their training includes the dangers, potential risk factors and how to prevent asphyxia-related injuries.

The foremost way to prevent oxygen-related injuries is by closely monitoring mother and child during the prenatal period, and once labor and delivery begins. Any abnormalities or signs of distress should be addressed immediately. If complications arise, doctors have a duty to act in a timely manner in order to promote the best outcome possible.

How Long Can The Brain Go Without Oxygen A Timeline

Oxygen Deprivation or Lack of Oxygen to Brain

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 Does Lack Of Oxygen Affect The Brain

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.

Oxygen Deprivation From Near

An estimated 5,000 children under 14 are hospitalized each year for near-drowning: up to 20% are left with severe neurological disabilities.

In cases of drowning, not all victims die. Fatal drowning are usually the most publicized, but what the public often doesnt hear are the tragic stories of near-drowning survivors who face lifelong disabilities due to the lack of oxygen to their brains.

An estimated 5,000 children ages 14 and younger are hospitalized each year for near-drowning: 15 percent die in the hospital and up to 20 percent are left with severe, permanent neurological disabilities, says Dr. Gary Goodman, a critical care specialist and medical director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at CHOC at Mission Hospital.

Humans are air-breathing animals, Dr. Goodman says. Our bodies need a constant supply of oxygen. There is no organ that is more sensitive to a lack of oxygen than the brain. It cannot use any other fuel. It has to have oxygen.

The parts of the brain that control thinking and memory are the first areas of the brain to be harmed as a result of oxygen deprivation. Physicians believe that brain damage begins to occur after about five minutes of oxygen deprivation.

If you can rescue a child before that and restore their breathing with CPR, and get their breathing back, usually the children will recover, Dr. Goodman says. After five minutes, there will be brain damage. Its just a matter of how severe.

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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 A Baby Go Without Oxygen Before Brain Damage Occurs


The impact of oxygen deprivation will vary from baby to baby. However, it is estimated that after approximately 10 minutes of no oxygen brain damage will start to occur and that death will occur if the baby is completely starved of oxygen for 25 minutes. If the interruption to the babys oxygen supply is not complete, the baby will be able to stand longer periods of time before brain injury and then death occurs.

This demonstrates the importance that the causes and symptoms of oxygen starvation during labour and delivery are quickly recognised and responded to by the medical team supporting the mother. All staff involved, including midwives and obstetricians, should be well-trained in spotting and managing these problems when they arise.

Any delay can have serious long-term consequences for the baby. These include the need for ongoing care for the child throughout their life. Our medical solicitors understand the financial and emotional burden this can cause for the family as well as the child. We take every step to ensure these circumstances are investigated and, if negligence is identified, to ensure that the family secures the compensation they are due.

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With Larger Spleens It Is Thought The Bajau Benefit From A Greater Injection Of Oxygenated Blood And So Can Hold Their Breath For Longer

The spleen is thought to play a key role in enabling humans to free dive.

There is something called the mammalian dive reflex, which in humans is triggered by the combination of holding your breath and submerging yourself in water, says Ilardo. One of the effects of the dive reflex is contraction of the spleen. The spleen acts as a reservoir for oxygen-rich red blood cells, and when it contracts these red blood cells are pushed into circulation, providing an oxygen boost. It can be thought of as a biological scuba tank.

Traditional free divers of the Bajau people in Indonesia have evolved enlarged spleens to help them spend longer underwater

With larger spleens, it is thought the Bajau benefit from a greater injection of oxygenated blood and so can hold their breath for longer. One Bajau diver that Ilardo met told her he had spent 13 minutes underwater.

Lemons himself returned to diving about three weeks after his accident at the very spot where it had happened, to finish the job they had started. He has also married Morag and they have a daughter together.

Reflecting on his brush with death and his miraculous survival, he doesnt take much credit for his own actions.

One of the greatest reasons I survived was the quality of the people around me, he says. In truth, I did very little. It was the professionalism and the heroics of the two in the water with me and everyone on the ship. I was very lucky.

The changes in his own life have not been so dramatic.

How Long Does Hypoxic Brain Injury Last

The most rapid recovery is usually in the first six months, and by about one year the likely long-term outcome will have become clearer. However, improvement may continue for much longer after brain injury, certainly for several years, although the progress may become more modest and gradual after the first few months.

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What Causes A Baby To Stop Breathing During Birth

Complications with an umbilical cord are one of the most common causes of an infants loss of oxygen during childbirth. For example, if an umbilical cord was tangled around the neck of a child in the womb, the umbilical cord knot could cause them to suffocate when they enter the birth canal.

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Causes Of Lack Of Oxygen At Birth

How Long Can a Baby Be Deprived of Oxygen Before Brain Damage?

Lack of oxygen at birth can be caused by several factors, or by a combination of unfortunate circumstances. Some of these causes are unavoidable complications that no one could anticipate. However, there are also some cases where injuries could be prevented had healthcare providers taken action more quickly during signs of distress.

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How Do You Treat Anoxic Brain Injury

Treatment. Unfortunately, direct treatment of anoxia is limited. Some studies have suggested that the use of barbiturates, which slow down the brain’s activity, may be helpful in the first two or three days after the onset of the injury. Otherwise, the general medical approach is to maintain the body’s status.

How Long Does The Brain Stay Alive After Death

Bone, tendon, and skin can survive as long as 8 to 12 hours. The brain, however, appears to accumulate ischemic injury faster than any other organ. Without special treatment after circulation is restarted, full recovery of the brain after more than 3 minutes of clinical death at normal body temperature is rare.

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Causes Of Cerebral Anoxia And Cerebral Hypoxia

There is a multitude of causes of anoxic and hypoxic brain injuries. According to, some of the potential causes of cerebral anoxia include:

  • A blockage of blood flow due to a blood clot or stroke
  • A severe asthma attack
  • Carbon monoxide or smoke inhalation
  • Drug overdose or poisoning
  • Low blood pressure resulting from disrupted cardiac function or blood loss
  • Strangulation or suffocation
  • Strangulation or blockage of the airway

They Watched Helplessly As Lemons’s Movements Gradually Stopped His Life Fading Away

What would happen, if oxygen supply in the brain is stopped?

Back on board the Bibby Topaz, the crew desperately tried to manually navigate back into position to save their lost colleague. As they drifted further away, they launched a remote-controlled submarine in the hope of finding him.

When it did, they watched helplessly on its cameras as Lemonss movements gradually stopped, his life fading away.

I can remember pulling the last bits of air from the tank on my back, says Lemons. It takes more effort to suck the gas down. It felt a bit like the moments before you fall asleep. It wasnt unpleasant, but I can remember feeling angry and apologising a lot to my fiancée Morag. I was angry about the damage this was going to do to other people. Then there was nothing.

The cold water and extra oxygen that had dissolved in Lemons’s blood while he was working helped him to survive for so long without air

It took around 30 minutes before the crew of the Bibby Topaz were able to regain control and restart the failed dynamic positioning system. When Youasa reached Lemons on top of the underwater structure, his body was still.

Through sheer will, Youasa dragged his fallen colleague back to the bell and passed him up to Allcock. When they removed his helmet, Lemons was blue and not breathing. Instinctively, Allcock gave him two breaths of mouth to mouth resuscitation.

Miraculously, Lemons gasped back into consciousness.

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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.

    Why Is Death Irreversible

    Death: Past and Present

    A person became motionless, lifeless, and was deemed irreversibly dead. This is because once the heart stops beating, blood flow stops and oxygen is cut off from all the bodys organs, including the brain. Consequently, within seconds, breathing stops and brain activity comes to a halt.

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    What Causes A Lack Of Oxygen To The Brain

    Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygenated blood from the lungs through the bodys cardiovascular system and venous systems to the brain and the rest of the body. When something blocks or causes a stoppage or lack of blood flow, such as a blood clot or a prolifically bleeding wound, it prevents this critical supply of oxygen from reaching the brain.

    The brain uses about 20% of the bodys oxygen supply, which allows it to perform conscious and autonomic processes.

    Most Common Signs Of Oxygen Deprivation

    How Long Can The Brain Go Without Oxygen

    Most cases of oxygen deprivation have an immediate, obvious cause. A person is at risk of oxygen deprivation under a number of circumstances, including:

    • Strangulation, which blocks blood flow to the brain, thereby preventing oxygen from getting to the brains cells.
    • Cardiac or respiratory arrest due to accidents, heart attacks, strokes, and similar catastrophic events.
    • Choking.
    • Brian tumors that impede blood flow.
    • Heart arrhythmias.
    • Smoke or carbon monoxide inhalation.
    • Extremely low blood pressure, which is common when the body goes into shock due to other injuries.
    • Poisoning, including via overdose of prescription and illicit drugs or alcohol.
    • Broken or compressed trachea.

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    What Causes Infant Brain Damage

    Several factors can lead to brain damage in a newborn or infant. Some occur in utero, while others happen during labor or shortly after delivery.

    Asphyxiation During Birth

    Some causes of brain damage in infants are from asphyxiation, or lack of oxygen, around the time of birth. Babies born prematurely are at increased risk of being deprived of oxygen.

    The brain needs oxygen, and when levels are low, even for a short period, the result can be brain damage.

    Asphyxia may be the result of several factors:

    • Too little oxygen in the mothers blood during birth
    • Placental abruption
    • Complications with the umbilical cord
    • Infections in the baby or the mother
    • A blocked or malformed airway
    • Anemia in the mother
    • Other maternal health issues

    The lack of oxygen that results can lead to damage causing cerebral palsy, seizures, cognitive disability, and other associated conditions.


    When a mother has an infection during pregnancy, it can affect her unborn child. Infections like herpes, rubella , syphilis, cystitis, HIV, and others, especially when not properly treated, increase the risk of brain damage in the baby.

    Infections can also increase the risk of premature birth, which is also associated with a greater possibility of damage to the brain.


    If preeclampsia develops into eclampsia, which is when it progresses to maternal seizures, it can have devastating consequences for the newborn, including brain damage, seizures, and even death.

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