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What is Cerebral Hypoxia

Other Diseases By Ariba Khaliq , Onlymyhealth editorial team / Dec 27, 2012
What is Cerebral Hypoxia

Cerebral hypoxia is a form of hypoxia (reduced supply of oxygen) specifically involving the brain; when the brain is completely deprived of oxygen it is called cerebral anoxia.

Brain hypoxia, also called cerebral hypoxia, is decreased oxygen in the brain. You are at risk for this condition if you are drowning, choking, suffocating, or in cardiac arrest. Brain injury and carbon monoxide poisoning are other possible causes of brain hypoxia. The condition can be serious because brain cells need an uninterrupted flow of oxygen to function properly.

A variety of medical conditions and events that interrupt or stop the flow of oxygen to your brain can cause hypoxia. Stroke, cardiac arrest, and irregular heartbeats can prevent both oxygen and nutrients from travelling to the brain.

Other possible causes of oxygen depletion include:

  • hypotension (extremely low blood pressure)
  • anaesthesia complications during surgery
  • choking
  • carbon monoxide poisoning
  • drowning
  • breathing in carbon monoxide or smoke
  • travelling to high altitudes (above 8,000 feet)
  • brain injury
  • strangulation
  • medical conditions that make it difficult to breathe, such as an extreme asthma attack

Cerebral Hypoxia

You are at risk for brain hypoxia if you are in situations that might cause it. If your job or regular activities are linked to the causes, your risk is greater.

Brain hypoxia symptoms range from mild to severe. Mild symptoms include:

  • temporary memory loss
  • reduced ability to move your body
  • difficulty paying attention
  • difficulty making sound decisions


Severe symptoms include:

  • seizures
  • coma
  • not breathing
  • brain death


Brain hypoxia requires immediate treatment to restore the flow of oxygen to your brain. The exact course of treatment depends on the cause and severity of your condition. For a mild case caused by mountain climbing, for example, you would immediately return to a lower altitude. In more severe cases, you need emergency care that places you on a respirator (breathing machine).

Image: Getty

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