Neuropsychology and Rehabilitation Psychology Division Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.


What is anoxic brain injury?

ANOXIC BRAIN INJURY refers to damage caused to the brain when its oxygen supply is cut off. In general, this occurs when there is an absence of oxygen intake (no breathing) or an impairment in oxygen transport by the blood stream. Anoxic brain injury can occur along with cardiac arrest, as a complication of surgery, or as a result of near-drowning.

When the flow of oxygen to the brain is interrupted even for just a few minutes, serious, irreversible damage can occur. While traumatic brain injury can result in bruising and swelling of the brain , anoxic brain injury causes brain cells to die. The sequela of anoxic brain injury (the physical and cognitive impairments) resemble those of other types of brain trauma. Rehabilitation for anoxic brain injury involves many of the same therapies as traumatic brain injury... physical therapy, cognitive therapy, occupational therapy, etc. The prognosis for someone with anoxic brain injury depends upon pre-morbid factors (e.g., pre-injury heart condition), the injury (e.g., length of time of anoxia), and treatment (e.g., intensity and quality of therapy).

Reference: Long, David F. What is Anoxic Brain Injury? Washington, D.C.: Brain Injury Association, Inc. (formerly National Head Injury Foundation).

What are the three leading causes of brain injuries?

Motor vehicle crashes account for the majority of brain injuries (roughly 1/2 of all injuries). This includes brain injury-related deaths as well as nonfatal injuries. The second leading cause of brain injury-related deaths is firearm-related incidents. The second leading cause of nonfatal brain injuries is falls. Some surveillance systems site "violence"-related injuries as the second leading cause of all brain injuries. Undoubtedly, this cause of injury is on the rise. The leading cause of brain injury varies among age groups. The youngest children and oldest adults sustain injuries due to falls more often than young-to-middle age adults, who are more often injured in motor vehicle crashes.

  • References: (1) Waxweiler, R.J. et. al. (1995). "Monitoring the Impact of Traumatic Brain Injury: A Review and Update." Journal of Neurotrauma. Vol. 12. No. 4. Mary Ann Leibert, Inc. (2) "Traumatic Brain Injury Facts and Figures." The Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems National Data Center. (April 1996). Detroit, Michigan: Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan.


What are the leading causes of brain injury in children?

Causes of brain injury in children include falls, abuse, recreation accidents, and motor vehicle accidents. The youngest children are more often injured due to falls and abuse. For example, "Shaken Baby Syndrome" can cause brain injury in infants. Other examples include falls from shopping carts, accidents involving children in "walkers," and falls from windows. Elementary school-age children are more often injured in recreational accidents, such as all-terrain vehicle and bicycle accidents (helmets significantly reduce the severity of injury in these cases). Teens and young adults are most often injured in motor vehicle crashes. Alcohol is a significant factor in many of these incidents.
  • Reference: Waaland, Pamela K. (1990). "Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury." Richmond, Virginia: Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Severe Traumatic Brain Injury, Medical College of Virginia / Virginia Commonwealth University.


My friend was diagnosed with a "closed head injury" after a car accident. She doesn't remember all of the accident, but reports feeling dazed for a period of time afterwards. She says she didn't completely lose consciousness, though. The hospital did a CT scan and sent her home. Now my friend is experiencing headaches and mood swings. Is it possible that the closed head injury caused these problems?

It is possible to have brain damage even if a CT scan doesn't show any problems. It is possible to have brain damage even if there was no loss of consciousness. Headaches and mood swings are both symptoms which can come from a closed head injury. It's possible to have such symptoms even when at first doctors don't find anything obviously wrong. Any time someone has new symptoms following an accident, it's a good idea to go back to the doctor to evaluate the cause and recommend treatment. The doctor might suggest that the patient sees a psychologist or psychiatrist as well.

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