Medical Q&As

Hypoxic brain damage - explain?

My father suffered a cardiac arrest while being treated in hospital for osteoarthritis. He was on life support for one week but was left with hypoxic brain damage. Three years later he is going downhill, the system as much as his condition has contributed to this. What can you tell me about this type of damage, and what more can I do? He is in a nursing home and I visit most days.

The term hypoxic brain damage means that your father suffered an injury to his brain due to lack of oxygen, which in turn was triggered by the cardiac arrest. The term cardiac arrest means that his heart had stopped beating and therefore the circulation of his blood was suspended for the duration of the arrest. In such circumstances the brain can become permanently damaged if it is deprived of oxygen and glucose for more than a couple of minutes. If a person were to survive a cardiac arrest their level of recovery would depend on the length of time that the arrest lasted for and which areas of the brain sustained the injury. Predicting long-term recovery from hypoxic brain injury can be difficult. It is difficult for me to give you a more comprehensive answer because you do not outline the extent of your father’s disability. Since he is in a nursing home three years after the event I presume that he is incapable of independent existence and probably will not be returning to the family home. You ask about yourself; “what more can I do”? I certainly would not underestimate the importance and value of what you are already doing. Visiting him and spending time with him, even if there is not much communication with him, may of much more value to him than you realise.