Cerebral hypoxia medical therapy

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Cerebral hypoxia Microchapters


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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

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Medical Therapy

The first goal of treatment is to restore oxygen to the brain. The method of restoration depends on the cause of the hypoxia.[1] For mild to moderate cases of hypoxia, removal of the cause of hypoxia may be sufficient. Inhaled oxygen may also be provided. In severe cases treatment may also involve life support and damage control measures.

A deep coma will interfere with body’s breathing reflexes even after the initial cause of hypoxia has been dealt with. Mechanical ventilation may be required. Additionally severe cerebral hypoxia causes an elevated heart rate. In extreme cases the heart may tire and stop pumping. CPR, defibrilation, epinephrine, and atropine may all be tried in an effort to get the heart to resume pumping.

Severe cerebral hypoxia can also cause seizures. Seizures put the patient at risk of self injury. If convulsions are sufficiently severe medical professionals may not be able to provide medical treatment. Various anti-convulsant drugs may need to be administered before treatment can continue.

Brain damage can occur both during and after oxygen deprivation. During oxygen deprivation, cells die due to an increasing acidity in the brain tissue (acidosis). Additionally, during the period of oxygen deprivation, materials that can easily create free radicals build up. When oxygen enters the tissue these materials interact with oxygen to create high levels of oxidants. Oxidants interfere with the normal brain chemistry and cause further damage. This is called reperfusion injury.

Techniques for preventing damage to brain cells are an area of on-going research. Controlled hypothermia, anti-oxidant drugs, control of blood glucose levels, and hemodilution (thinning of the blood) coupled with drug-induced hypertension are some treatment techniques currently under investigation.[2]

In severe cases it is extremely important to act quickly. Brain cells are very sensitive to reduced oxygen levels. Once deprived of oxygen they will begin to die off within five minutes.[2]


  1. "Cerebral hypoxia". Health-cares.net. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Richmond TS (May 1997). "Cerebral Resuscitation after Global Brain Ischemia". AACN Clinical Issues 8 (2). Retrieved on 2007-04-13. Free full text at the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses website.