Learn About Cerebral Hypoxia

What is the definition of Cerebral Hypoxia?

Cerebral hypoxia occurs when there is not enough oxygen getting to the brain. The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to function.

Cerebral hypoxia affects the largest parts of the brain, called the cerebral hemispheres. However, the term is often used to refer to a lack of oxygen supply to the entire brain.

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What are the alternative names for Cerebral Hypoxia?

Hypoxic encephalopathy; Anoxic encephalopathy

What are the causes of Cerebral Hypoxia?

In cerebral hypoxia, sometimes only the oxygen supply is interrupted. This can be caused by:

  • Breathing in smoke (smoke inhalation), such as during a fire
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Choking
  • Diseases that prevent movement (paralysis) of the breathing muscles, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • High altitudes
  • Pressure on (compression) the windpipe (trachea)
  • Strangulation

In other cases, both oxygen and nutrient supply are stopped, caused by:

  • Cardiac arrest (when the heart stops pumping)
  • Cardiac arrhythmia (heart rhythm problems)
  • Complications of general anesthesia
  • Drowning
  • Drug overdose
  • Injuries to a newborn that occurred before, during, or soon after birth, such as cerebral palsy
  • Stroke
  • Very low blood pressure

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.

What are the symptoms of Cerebral Hypoxia?

Symptoms of mild cerebral hypoxia include:

  • Change in attention (inattentiveness)
  • Poor judgment
  • Uncoordinated movement

Symptoms of severe cerebral hypoxia include:

  • Complete unawareness and unresponsiveness (coma)
  • No breathing
  • No response of the pupils of the eye to light
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What are the current treatments for Cerebral Hypoxia?

Cerebral hypoxia is an emergency condition that needs to be treated right away. The sooner the oxygen supply is restored to the brain, the lower the risk for severe brain damage and death.

Treatment depends on the cause of the hypoxia. Basic life support is most important. Treatment involves:

  • Breathing assistance (mechanical ventilation) and oxygen
  • Controlling the heart rate and rhythm
  • Fluids, blood products, or medicines to raise blood pressure if it is low
  • Medicines or general anesthetics to calm seizures

Sometimes a person with cerebral hypoxia is cooled to slow down the activity of the brain cells and decrease their need for oxygen. However, the benefit of this treatment has not been firmly established.

Who are the top Cerebral Hypoxia Local Doctors?
Highly rated in

Division Of Nephrology And Endocrinology

Department Of Prevention Of Diabetes And Lifestyle Related Diseases, Graduate School Of Medicine 
Tokyo, JP 

Masaomi Nangaku is in Tokyo, Japan. Nangaku is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Cerebral Hypoxia. They are also highly rated in 36 other conditions, according to our data. Their top areas of expertise are Cerebral Hypoxia, Anemia, Diabetic Nephropathy, and D-Minus Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.

Highly rated in
Pulmonary Medicine

University Hosptial Zurich


Silvia Ulrich is a Pulmonary Medicine expert in Switzerland. Ulrich is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Cerebral Hypoxia. She is also highly rated in 4 other conditions, according to our data. Her top areas of expertise are Pulmonary Hypertension, Cerebral Hypoxia, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease COPD, and Pulmonary Veno-Occlusive Disease.

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Highly rated in

Division Of Nephrology And Endocrinology

The University Of Tokyo Graduate School Of Medicine 
Tokyo, JP 

Tetsuhiro Tanaka is in Tokyo, Japan. Tanaka is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Cerebral Hypoxia. They are also highly rated in 6 other conditions, according to our data. Their top areas of expertise are Cerebral Hypoxia, Anemia, Diabetic Nephropathy, and Chronic Kidney Disease.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Cerebral Hypoxia?

The outlook depends on the extent of the brain injury. This is determined by how long the brain lacked oxygen, and whether nutrition to the brain was also affected.

If the brain lacked oxygen for only a brief period, a coma may be reversible and the person may have a full or partial return of function. Some people recover many functions, but have abnormal movements, such as twitching or jerking, called myoclonus. Seizures may sometimes occur, and may be continuous (status epilepticus).

Most people who make a full recovery were only briefly unconscious. The longer a person is unconscious, the higher the risk for death or brain death, and the lower the chances of recovery.

What are the possible complications of Cerebral Hypoxia?

Complications of cerebral hypoxia include a prolonged vegetative state. This means the person may have basic life functions, such as breathing, blood pressure, sleep-wake cycle, and eye opening, but the person is not alert and does not respond to their surroundings. Such people usually die within a year, although some may survive longer.

Length of survival depends partly on how much care is taken to prevent other problems. Major complications may include:

  • Bed sores
  • Clots in the veins (deep vein thrombosis)
  • Lung infections (pneumonia)
  • Malnutrition
When should I contact a medical professional for Cerebral Hypoxia?

Cerebral hypoxia is a medical emergency. Call 911 or the local emergency number immediately if someone is losing consciousness or has other symptoms of cerebral hypoxia.

How do I prevent Cerebral Hypoxia?

Prevention depends on the specific cause of hypoxia. Unfortunately, hypoxia is usually unexpected. This makes the condition somewhat difficult to prevent.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can be lifesaving, especially when it is started right away.

What are the latest Cerebral Hypoxia Clinical Trials?
Post Intubation Neurologic Function in Critically Ill Hypoxic Adults
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Impact of High-flow Nasal Cannula Oxygen (HFNC) Versus Noninvasive Ventilation Associated With Sleep Quality on Atrial Fibrillation in Hypoxemic Patients After Coronary Surgery
What are the Latest Advances for Cerebral Hypoxia?
ECMO for paediatric cardiac arrest caused by bronchial rupture and severe lung injury: a case report about life-threatening rescue at an adult ECMO centre.
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Programmed multi-level ventilation in COVID-19-related acute respiratory distress syndrome: a multi-center retrospective observational study.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date : August 02, 2020
Published By : Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, FAAN, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Fugate JE, Wijdicks EFM. Anoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 83.

Greer DM, Bernat JL. Coma, vegetative state, and brain death. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 376.

Lumb AB, Thomas C. Hypoxia. In: Lumb AB, Thomas C, ed. Nunn and Lumb's Applied Respiratory Physiology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 23.