Hypoxic encephalopathy: causes, symptoms and treatment

The brain is the most important set of organs in our bodyBut it is also one of the trickiest. A small deformity or alteration in her functioning can totally affect her performance, and although thanks to neuroplasticity she can overcome a large number of injuries, this does not always happen.

Hypoxic encephalopathySpecifically, it is one of the most serious situations the brain can go through and, in fact, it is the leading cause of brain death. Below, we’ll see what it is, why it happens, and what is typically done to try and reverse this condition.

    What is hypoxic encephalopathy?

    Encephalopathies are a category used in medicine to generally refer to diseases of the brain, and this case is no exception. In hypoxic encephalopathy, there is one lack of oxygen in this set of organsThus, the tissue made up of neurons and glial cells begins to die, leading to a risk of serious or even fatal sequelae.

    This is what can happen, for example, in cerebral ischemia: the blood flow is interrupted, and as a result there are cells which cannot stay alive and begin to be destroyed quickly.

    It should be noted that when we talk about hypoxic encephalopathy, we are not just talking about the lack of oxygen in the brain, But the damage to brain tissue. It is the disease, not the cause of cell death.

    On the other hand, hypoxic encephalopathy is relatively common and is estimated to cause around 25% of infant deaths worldwide. It is also one of the main causes of death in boys and girls during their early childhood.


      The main symptoms of the disease depend largely on which area of ​​the brain is affected, and how severe it is.

      Mild hypoxic encephalopathy

      In this situation, typical symptoms of hypooxic encephalopathy are as follows:

      • drowsiness
      • Lack of appetite.
      • Changes in the way we are and behave.
      • Any significantly elevated muscle.
      • Pale skin.

      Moderate hypoxic encephalopathy

      The associated symptoms are:

      • Apnea and sudden changes in breathing patterns.
      • Seizures.
      • Sota to muscular.
      • pale skin.

      Severe hypoxic encephalopathy

      In these cases, they are common:

      • Intense crises.
      • Under heart rate.
      • Very pale skin color.
      • Strange patterns in eye movements.
      • Difficulty in breathing.


      The prognosis for hypoxic encephalopathy can be very variable, and improves in cases where initial symptoms improve within the first week. However, as an indication, the main sequelae of the disease are estimated to be as follows:

      • Epileptic attacks.
      • Cognitive impairment.
      • Cerebral palsy.
      • Difficulty controlling movements.

      Stages of this disease

      Hypoxic encephalopathy has two phases, each with its own risks and possible sequelae. The first consists of the damage caused by the oxygen deprivation itself, while the second this is called reperfusion damage.

      In this second phase, the restoration of blood flow to the brain is capable of damaging the tissues due to the accumulation of substances that had occurred in the previous step in a certain section of the circulatory system. In this way, everything that has been accumulated passes at the same time through an area of ​​the nervous system which is vulnerable.

      Risk factors

      It is estimated that the main associated risk factors at the onset of hypoxic encephalopathy are:

      • Meningitis and encephalitis.
      • Birth defects of the skull, such as microcephaly.
      • Cranioencephalic trauma.
      • Low blood pressure.
      • Have had a premature birth.
      • During pregnancy, the risk factors related to the possible development of the disease in the baby are:
      • Knots in the umbilical cord.
      • Ruptured placenta.
      • High pressure inside the fetal skull.
      • Drug use during pregnancy.


      In the event of hypoxic encephalopathy, it is important to act as soon as possible to prevent damage to areas that are crucial for the functioning of the nervous system and the overall survival of the body. One of the first measures is use assisted breathing to meet immediate needs of the body while trying to restore blood circulation.

      The following relates to the provision of medicines to treat possible seizures. Sometimes treatments are also used to lower the temperature of the affected area of ​​the brain, with the aim of varying the pressure in that area and restarting irrigation.

      On the other hand, since the lack of oxygen in the central nervous system may have affected the functioning of all types of organs in the body, these disorders should also be treated in parallel. If the disease occurs in a newborn baby, these techniques should be as minimally invasive as possible.

      In cases where the flow has already been restored but significant sequelae have remained, occupational therapy is strongly recommendedBecause it helps the person to integrate better and gain autonomy over their own life.

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