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What is anoxic brain injury from cardiac arrest?

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A anoxic injury, also known as HAI, is a traumatic brain injury that initially causes unconsciousness or coma, from which an individual may never recover, explains Family Caregiver Alliance. If the person does recover, HAI may cause short-term memory loss, a decrease in executive functions, difficulty using words and visual disturbances. HAI is most commonly caused by cardiac arrest.

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An anoxic brain injury occurs when the brain is completely cut off from its supply of oxygen, states Family Caregiver Alliance. The cells in the brain use oxygen to convert glucose into energy, which the brain needs to send electrochemical impulses between cells and to keep neurons receiving and responding to these signals. Within minutes of oxygen deprivation, the brain cells begin to die, causing the electrochemical impulses to stop transmitting signals. This leads to negative impacts on the cognitive, physiological and emotional processes that occur in the brain.

When cardiac arrest occurs, oxygen-rich blood stops reaching the brain, resulting in an anoxic injury, explains Family Caregiver Alliance. If an individual recovers from the coma or unconsciousness, he may also experience physical symptoms including ataxia, apraxia, spasticity and quadriparesis. Apraxia is the loss of muscle memory, and it is characterized by the inability to perform everyday movements such as brushing one's hair or teeth. Spasticity often presents as abnormal or jerky movements of the body.

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