Though almost everyone understands the danger of oxygen deprivation to the human brain, many are not aware of just how quickly damage can occur in the event of anoxia. Anoxia is differentiated from hypoxia in that anoxia is a complete oxygen deprivation, where hypoxia is simply diminished oxygenation. Anoxia is much more dangerous much more quickly.
Anoxia is usually caused by a sudden restriction of blood flow, such as is caused by umbilical cord strangulation in utero. Modern medical equipment allows the doctor and nurses to monitor for signs of an anoxic event, and rapid response is necessary to minimize the risk of brain damage or even death.
The timeline of brain damage caused by anoxia can be shockingly quick. Though brain cell death is usually minimal until approximately five minutes of oxygen deprivation, the process of cell death and damage can begin in as little as one minute. Within the next few minutes, the cells suffer even more damage, leading up to significant lasting damage at the five minute mark.
When dealing with an unborn infant, the timeframe between five minutes and ten is often the difference between life and death. At five minutes of anoxia, there is a very good chance of significant developmental disability, but the risk of death continues to climb as each second passes. By approximately eight to ten minutes after the anoxic event, death becomes reasonably likely, and brain damage all but certain.
With such a short timeline to prevent catastrophe, it is imperative that medical staff properly monitor an expecting mother. If you or someone you love has suffered unnecessarily due to a delayed recognition of an anoxic event, please consider consulting with an experienced attorney. A qualified lawyer will know the right experts to review your case to determine whether or not the diagnosis should have been made more quickly, and whether a swift diagnosis might have resulted in a better outcome for mother or child.