Cerebral Hypoxia

Cerebral hypoxia is a type of brain injury that occurs when an incident deprives the brain of oxygen for an extended period of time. The condition, which causes permanent brain damage, can be triggered as a result of many diseases, injuries, and accidents, such as cardiac arrest, smoke inhalation, or drowning. Due to the irreversible harm done to the brain, most victims slip into a coma or die within minutes.

What Are the Various Functions of Your Brain?

What Are the Various Functions of Your Brain?

The brain controls your entire body through the use and interpretation of sense perceptions, which gather information about your body and its environment. The brain then sends electrical and chemical signals via the nervous system to your organs and muscles in order to adapt to the circumstances it has perceived.

For example, suppose that you see flames, smell smoke, and feel heat. Your body will activate your sweat glands to cool your body and release adrenaline into your bloodstream to heighten your reaction time and energy levels. It will then search for an escape route and allow your legs to carry you to the nearest exit as quickly as possible.

The brain requires massive resources to perform its everyday functions. Over 20% of the oxygen you breathe and calories you ingest go to your brain. It uses these resources for cell metabolism, a process in which (brain) cells use oxygen and nutrients to produce energy and proteins. Without oxygen, brain cells cannot produce the energy needed to keep themselves alive.

What Are Common Causes of Cerebral Hypoxia?

Cerebral hypoxia does not happen when blood circulation to the brain is interrupted by a blood clot or massive hemorrhage. Instead, it occurs when the blood circulating to the brain lacks the necessary oxygen levels for its needs.

As touched on above, cerebral hypoxia can be triggered by many causes, such as:


Suffocation covers a wide range of situations in which something prevents you from inhaling oxygen. 

Some examples include the following:

  • Choking on food or other objects
  • Drowning
  • Strangulation due to accidental hanging or intentional assault
  • Injury to the lungs, neck, or face, such as a punctured lung in a car accident
  • Chest constriction that prevents the lungs from expanding

If doctors or emergency responders cannot restore a victim’s respiration, they will experience a traumatic brain injury that is often followed by death.


Asphyxiation occurs when something interferes with the body’s ability to gather or release oxygen in the body. The two most common causes of asphyxiation include carbon monoxide and smoke.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is poisonous when inhaled. The molecular makeup of red blood cells causes them to prefer carbon monoxide over oxygen. As the blood fills with cells carrying carbon monoxide instead of oxygen, most often as a result of inhaling the gas emitted by an idling car engine, the cells of the body and the brain die.

Smoke inhalation happens when the victim breathes in airborne byproducts of combustion. Combustion produces carbon monoxide as well as other particulates and gases, so when someone is trapped in a fire, they could die from a lack of oxygen long before they succumb to burn injuries.


Many types of toxins can cause cerebral hypoxia. Volatile chemicals from paints, paint removers, degreasers, and other toxic substances can displace oxygen when they evaporate, which means, as you breathe in these chemicals, your brain slowly becomes starved of oxygen.

Another type of poisoning is a drug overdose, which can result from street drugs or medical malpractice. Some drugs, when consumed in extreme amounts, depress respiration so much that the victim is unable to inhale enough oxygen to sustain the core functions of the brain.

What Are the Symptoms of Cerebral Hypoxia?

Cerebral hypoxia happens fast. When the brain is fully deprived of oxygen, rescuers only have about four minutes to save the victim. At that point, the brain begins to suffer permanent damage, and reaching a time between eight and ten minutes without oxygen will result in brain death.

With that being said, however, cerebral hypoxia does not always cause death. The victim may suffer from oxygen deprivation that reduces the brain’s blood supply without cutting it off completely. 

Still, even with a diminished oxygen supply, the brain can suffer such symptoms as:

  • Confusion
  • Amnesia
  • Irregular breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Blue skin or lips
  • Seizures
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of consciousness

Unfortunately, brain cells cannot regrow, meaning any damage resulting from cerebral hypoxia will be permanent. However, when someone survives cerebral hypoxia, they may regain some of the brain functions they lost, as the brain can rewire itself using a characteristic called neuroplasticity.

How Do You Prove Liability For Cerebral Hypoxia?

Someone may bear liability for a major disability or death resulting from cerebral hypoxia. To pursue a claim, you must show that someone’s intentional or negligent actions injured you or your loved one.

Intentional actions involve the at-fault individual with the intent to perform the action, though they do not necessarily have to intend the consequences. For instance, battery is an offense that ensues when someone intentionally causes harmful or offensive contact with someone else, regardless of whether the assailant meant to hurt the victim.

More importantly, however, the victim is not necessarily limited to the direct consequences of the battery. For example, say that someone intentionally pushed someone else off a bridge. The perpetrator not only bears liability for the bruises caused by the push but also for the cerebral hypoxia resulting from the near-drowning of the victim.

Negligent actions happen when someone fails to act in a reasonably prudent way and, as a result, someone suffers an injury. Again, the negligent party bears liability for any foreseeable consequences of the negligent action. For instance, if a doctor commits medical malpractice by failing to monitor a patient’s vital signs, they bear liability for the cerebral hypoxia that takes place when the patient stops breathing for two minutes.

What Types of Compensation Can You Pursue For Cerebral Hypoxia?

The compensation you can seek for cerebral hypoxia can include your economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses include such financial expenses as your medical costs and your lost wages. Non-economic losses cover all the ways in which your life is diminished as a result of your injuries, such as through pain, disability, and emotional distress.

Cerebral hypoxia is one of the most serious and permanent injuries an accident victim can suffer. Call us today at (561) 347-7770 to get the help you deserve with Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers we offer a free consultation to discuss the compensation you can seek for a cerebral hypoxia-related injury that you or a loved one sustained. Contact us today.