Topics: Traumatic Brain Injury

Contrasting a Traumatic and Anoxic Brain Injury

Most people have heard of concussions, which are a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). However, most people are less familiar with another form of brain injury that is known as an anoxic brain injury.

Although accidents or acts of violence can cause both of these injuries, there are many differences between these types of brain injuries, their prognoses, and recovery potential.

A blow to the head causes a traumatic brain injury; an anoxic brain injury is caused by the brain being deprived of oxygen for too long. When the brain is starved of oxygen, its neural cells begin to die in a process known as apoptosis, which is the body’s way of getting rid of peculiar or unneeded cells. This differs from a related brain injury known as hypoxia, which is when the delivery of oxygen to the brain is restricted but not eliminated.

Anoxic Brain Injury Causes and Symptoms

An anoxic brain injury causes a variety of different causal factors ranging from health conditions and other natural occurrences to acts of violence to accidents. Some of these causes can include:

  • A stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA);
  • Anaphylactic shock or having an allergic reaction;
  • Electrocution;
  • Extremely low blood pressure;
  • Severe pneumothorax or a collapsed lung (if the person is entirely unable to breathe);
  • Oxygen deprivation at birth (the umbilical cord can become wrapped around the baby’s neck and cut off blood flow to the brain, or they can become trapped in the birth canal);
  • A physical attack or assault, such as being choked or struck in the windpipe;
  • Asphyxiation (choking or suffocation); and
  • A drug overdose.

No two brains are the same, which means that the amount of time that someone can go without their brain receiving oxygen can differ from person to person. Some of these determining factors include the quality of a person’s brain and cardiovascular health. According to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, cell death begins within four minutes of the brain’s oxygen supply being eliminated. However, that means that for some people, brain cells will begin to die earlier — as early as one minute.

This means that if you suspect that you or someone you love is suffering oxygen deprivation, get help immediately — every second counts.

Anoxic Brain Injury Symptoms

Symptoms immediately following an anoxic brain injury will vary depending on the area(s) of the brain that are affected by cell death. Some of these immediate symptoms can include:

  • New Call-to-actionFeeling dizzy, woozy, or otherwise out of it;
  • Changes in behavior or sensory perception;
  • Experiencing confusion or disorientation;
  • Issues communicating or forming sentences;
  • Mood swings or changes;
  • Problems speaking or swallowing;
  • A headache or seizures;
  • Vision problems; and
  • Loss of consciousness.

The long-term effects of an anoxic brain injury will vary dramatically depending on the amount of time there is a lack of oxygen to the brain, as well as the area(s) of the brain that are affected. Anoxic brain injury symptoms can manifest in terms of speech capabilities, personality and behavior changes, memory challenges, various psychological symptoms, and unexplained sensations of pain.

Causes and Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries differ from anoxic ones in that they are caused by either an external force coming into contact with the head or the head being shaken. These injuries also include the subsequent internal complications that can result, such as swelling, tissue damage, and lack of oxygen to the brain.

There are three main types of brain injuries:

  • Closed head injuries: These account for the majority of brain injuries and occur when the brain is rattled or traumatized inside the skull.
  • Open-wound injuries: These injuries are often life-threatening and occur when a blow to the head occurs that is forceful enough to penetrate the skull.
  • Crushing injuries: Much like how they sound, these types of injuries occur when the brain is compressed between two objects. Although rare, these are the most damaging and life-threatening of the TBIs.

These injuries can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Automobile accidents;
  • Slipping and falling;
  • Something falling or being thrown that strikes the head;
  • Being shaken violently;
  • Sports-related events or activities; and
  • Acts of violence.

Much like anoxic brain injuries, time is of the essence when it comes to getting treatment for TBI to maximize recovery potential. Here are a few of the signs to look out for if you suspect that someone you love has sustained a TBI:

Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of TBI can range significantly depending on the extent of the injury. However, some of these symptoms can include:

  • Blurred vision;
  • Confusion or disorientation;
  • Lethargy or sleepiness;
  • Loss of consciousness;
  • Difficulty with cognitive functions (attention, concentration, memory, etc.);
  • Vomiting;
  • Communication issues (such as slurred speech or the inability to speak coherently)
  • Pupil dilation; and
  • Seizures.

Differences Between Their Prognosis and Recovery

Research shows that although people living with traumatic brain injuries struggle and face their share of challenges, they also show greater recovery and improvement over time than those who suffer anoxic brain injuries.

Depending on the severity of the injury concerning a TBI, damaged brain cells can begin to function over coming weeks. Physical rehabilitation will most likely be required to stimulate the brain to retrain neurons to replace those that were lost or damaged.

Although it is rare for patients with a severe anoxic brain injury to make a full recovery, many patients with mild anoxic or hypoxic brain injuries are capable of making a full or partial recovery.

The prognosis for any brain injury always depends on factors that are case- and patient-specific. To learn more about traumatic brain injuries, be sure to check out our free guide by clicking here. New Call-to-action

Spinal Cord Team

Written by Spinal Cord Team

SpinalCord.com has been created as a resource for patients of spinal cord injuries and their families. Find everything you need to learn more about your injury, locate a doctor or treatment center, or discover financial relief to support you through this difficult time.

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