Cerebral hypoxia is a term used to describe the loss of oxygen to the brain. The term refers to the cerebral hemisphere, which is an area in the outer part of the brain. It is, however, often used to refer to the lack of oxygen supply to the entire brain.
There are four categories based off severity in which cerebral hypoxia is typically classified:
- Diffuse Cerebral Hypoxia (DCH) - low oxygen levels in the blood may cause mild to moderate impairment of the brain.
- Focal Cerebral Ischemia - is a stroke that occurs in a localized area of the brain which may be sudden and short.
- Global Cerebral Ischemia - occurs when blood flow to the brain has stopped.
- Massive Cerebral Infarction - a stroke caused by complete oxygen deprivation to multiple areas of the brain due to interference in the cerebral blood flow.
Cerebral hypoxia may also be classified by the cause of oxygen deprivation to the brain:
- Hypoxic Hypoxia - is reduced brain functions caused be limited oxygen in the environment. People typically at risk for this form of cerebral hypoxia are pilots, divers, mountain climbers, and fire fighters. This term also refers to obstructions in the lungs which will cause oxygen deprivation such as chocking, strangulation, and a crushing of the windpipe.
- Hypemic Hypoxia - is caused by other substances being in the environment preventing a persons brain from receiving the oxygen needed. Carbon monoxide poisoning and Anemia are examples of this.
- Ischemic Hypoxia - is classified by the reduced brain oxygen due to inadequate blood flow to the brain. Forms of this stagnant hypoxia are often caused by stroke, shock, and heart attacks.
- Histotoxic Hypoxia - Oxygen may be present in the brain tissue but it can not be metabolized. A well known example of this is caused by Cyanide poisoning.
Cerebral hypoxia should be taken seriously as brain cells are extremely sensitive to a lack of oxygen. Brain cells may start to die off in less than five minutes after their oxygen supply is cut off. Because of this, the result of brain hypoxia for a suspended amount of time may be severe brain damage or even death.
Some symptoms to watch for of mild cerebral hypoxia include inattentiveness, uncoordinated movement, and poor judgement. More severe symptoms include coma, no breathing, and the pupils do not dilate to light.
The prognosis of cerebral hypoxia depends on the extent of the brain injury which is generally determined by how long the brain was deprived of oxygen. Some patients may make a full recovery, while others may be subject to a prolonged vegetative state which may result in death.
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