Anoxic Brain Injury

Suffered an Anoxic Brain Injury? Our Firm Can Help

Anoxic brain injury (ABI), also referred to as cerebral anoxia, is a form of acquired brain injury, where brain cells die due to the lack of oxygen reaching the brain. Such an injury can be caused by many different events, including cardiac arrest, strokes, or drowning accidents.

Hypoxic brain injuries (HBI) are often spoken about in the same context as anoxic brain injuries. The fundamental difference between the two is that hypoxic brain injuries occur when there is a partial loss of oxygen to the brain (though still not enough oxygen for the brain to function adequately), as opposed to the total loss of oxygen that characterizes anoxic brain injury.

Because some cases of anoxic brain injury are caused by another party’s poor decisions, it can also form a part of the compensable damages in a personal injury action. If securing legal counsel to protect your rights is necessary, our team of experienced anoxic brain injury lawyers is ready to fight for you to recover the maximum compensation owed to you.

We offer a sound, team-oriented approach when handling personal injury cases involving cerebral anoxia. Not only can our attorneys aggressively advocate for you in settlement or trial, but they can also guide you through the entire process with compassion and empathy.

Talk to a Los Angeles anoxic brain injury lawyer about your case or contact our firm to schedule a no-cost consultation.

(323) 653-6311

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What is Anoxic Brain Injury?

Our brains require a continuous flow of oxygen in order to function properly and keep us alive. If this flow of oxygen is interrupted, the consequences can be severe.

Anoxic brain injury occurs when there is a total and complete lack of oxygen getting to the brain. Some studies have shown that within four minutes of no oxygen, brain cells begin to die, leading to irreversible brain damage or death. The process through which neural cells die due to the lack of oxygen is apoptosis, or programmed cell death. When too many cells begin to die, the brain loses functionality, and eventually shuts down entirely.

There are numerous potential reasons why oxygen can be restricted from traveling to the brain. These reasons range from choking to drowning all the way up to cardiac arrests and chemical poisoning.

Causes of Anoxic Brain Injury

Any event that cuts off oxygen to the brain has the potential to result in cerebral anoxia. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Choking
  • Suffocation
  • Asphyxia
  • Anaphylactic shock from allergies
  • Severe asthma attacks
  • Low blood pressure
  • Near drowning
  • Poisoning
  • Complications with anesthesia
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Seizures
  • Strokes

In some cases, anoxia may be caused by another party’s negligence. Common causes include:

Car, motorcycle or truck accidents, if the injured party is trapped by debris or suffers severe blood loss leading to extreme hypotension (low blood pressure).

Boating accidents, where somebody has fallen overboard due to negligence on the part of the boat operator or another passenger.

Civil rights violations, such as when law enforcement personnel perform a choke hold or hold a person down for a period of time. For instance, the cause of Kelly Thomas’s death was listed as “anoxic encephalopathy … caused by mechanical chest compression with blunt cranial injuries sustained during physical altercation with law enforcement.

Unsafe premises, such as when a landlord allows equipment to fall into a state of disrepair and the equipment emits carbon monoxide into a closed space.

If you believe that the anoxic brain injury you or somebody you love has suffered was caused or contributed to by somebody else’s negligence, you should consult with an experienced brain injury attorney who will be able to advise you of your legal rights.

Symptoms of Anoxic Brain Injury

Persons typically lose consciousness after 15 seconds of low to complete lack of oxygen to the brain. This comatose state can be short or long depending on how long the oxygen deprivation continues. The longer a person’s brain goes without oxygen, the more severe his or her symptoms are likely to become.

Physical Symptoms

Once a person suffers an anoxic brain injury, her or she can begin to display secondary symptoms caused by the ABI, including:

  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty with coordination and balance
  • Blue or gray tint to lips and skin
  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • Perception changes in sensory skills
  • Facial drooping
  • Seizures

Cognitive Symptoms

The more brain cells that die due to lack of oxygen, the more long-term effects a person will experience if he or she is able to regain consciousness. These effects can include:

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty with reasoning and logic
  • Continued repetition of actions
  • Impaired empathy

Behavioral Symptoms

If a person successfully regains consciousness, he or she may also exhibit different behavioral tendencies than he or she did not exhibit prior to suffering an ABI. These can include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Erratic mood swings
  • Impulsivity
  • Acting inappropriately and aggressively

Long-Term Effects of Anoxic Brain Injury

The long-term effects of an anoxic brain injury can depend on a multitude of factors. The severity of the brain damage, coupled with how long a person was in a coma can result in varying levels of long-term effects.

The Extent of Anoxic Brain Injury

Some of the more vulnerable areas of the brain include the hippocampus, cerebellum and cerebral cortex, all of which can be injured during an anoxic brain injury. Depending on how affected each section of the brain is, persons may experience the follow long-term injuries:

  • Hippocampus damage, resulting in memory-related issues
  • Cerebral cortex and cerebellum injuries, resulting in balance and coordination difficulties
  • Damage to the occipital lobe of the cerebral cortex resulting in cortical blindness or other visual impairments

Prognosis Following Anoxic Brain Injury

As with many brain injuries, cases of cerebral anoxia may be classified as mild, moderate or severe. The prognosis of a person who suffers a ABI is determined on a case by case basis. However, as a general proposition, the more severe the ABI, the less likely the person will recover. Some of the most severe cases can leave a person in a vegetative state for the remainder of his or her life.

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Treatment and Rehabilitation For Anoxic Brain Injury

As with any other type of brain injury, the appropriate forms of treatment and rehabilitation vary from person to person. For anoxic brain injuries, there are many forms of rehabilitation that a person may have to undergo. 

Therapeutic Hypothermia

Targeted temperature management, or therapeutic hypothermia is now a widely accepted and used form of treatment in cases of anoxic brain injuries. In a study by the American Heart Association (AHA), it was recommended that therapeutic hypothermia can be used in cases of cardiac arrest or with comatose survivors.

During therapeutic hypothermia treatment, a healthcare provider lowers a person’s core body temperature to around 89-93°F. Although there are well documented risks to this treatment, studies do show that by lowering the body temperature, the person can have increased blood flow, leading to lower mortality rates and improved neurological functionality further down the line.

Speech Therapy

Some cerebral anoxia injuries predominantly affect a person’s motor cognition and language abilities. These can manifest as different forms of aphasia that can impact speech and communication.

A professional speech therapist will work with a person by going through a variety of actions throughout the speech therapy sessions in order to hopefully have the person regain some lost skills. The main tasks will include facial coordination, whereby the person will hopefully relearn how to move his or her muscles, tongue, and throat in order to form words correctly. The tasks will also include listen and response to familiarize a person with how conversations operate. Speech therapy can also include working towards more complex skills such as controlling voice pitch and volume.

Physical Therapy

Following anoxic brain injuries, the connections between a person’s brain and muscles may also be damaged or even destroyed. Physical therapy aims to restore these links by retraining the nervous system to accurately control muscle movement when required.

If a person engages in focused and repeated muscle exercises, the brain is more likely to be able to rebuild those connections and regain lost skills, through a process of rewiring known as neuroplasticity.

Some forms of physical therapy may include:

  • Active or passive range-of-motion exercises
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Task-specific exercises

Compensation & Liability For Cerebral Anoxia

Victims of anoxic brain injury may be entitled to compensation if another person or entity caused or contributed to the injury.  Our team stands ready to help you or your loved one get the compensation and closure you or a loved one deserves in the aftermath of cerebral anoxia. For more information on the legal implications of brain injuries, visit our central traumatic brain injury page.

(323) 653-6311


Banner image from Unsplash

Armen Akaragian | Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney



Admitted to practice in 2006, Armen has arbitrated, tried, and settled several cases which have resulted in multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements.

Sources cited in this article:

  1. What Are Anoxic and Hypoxic Brain Injuries?WebMD
  2. Hypoxic and Anoxic Brain Injury: An OverviewBIAA
  3. Significance of Brain Tissue Oxygenation and the Arachidonic Acid Cascade in StrokePMC
  4. Oxygen deprivation induced cell death: an updatePubMed
  5. ApoptosisNational Human Genome Research Institute
  6. The Brutal Beating Death of Kelly ThomasCriminal
  7. Hippocampus in health and disease: An overviewPMC
  8. Cerebellum: What It Is, Function & AnatomyCleveland Clinic
  9. Cerebral Cortex Of The Brain: Function & LocationSimplyPsychology
  10. Cortical BlindnessStatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf
  11. Vegetative stateWikipedia
  12. Targeted Temperature ManagementStatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf
  13. Updates on Management of Anoxic Brain Injury after Cardiac ArrestPMC
  14. Therapeutic Hypothermia After Cardiac ArrestJohns Hopkins Medicine
  15. Motor cognitionWikipedia
  16. AphasiaAmerican Speech-Language-Hearing Association
  17. The Best Speech Therapy Activities for TBI Patients (with videos!)FlintRehab
  18. Neuroplasticity: how lost skills can be regained after injury or illnessHarvard University


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