Pediatric Anoxic Brain Injury

Pediatric Anoxic Brain Injury



Anoxic brain injury occurs when oxygen no longer flows to a child’s brain (also called deprivation), resulting in brain damage.

Expanded overview

Anoxic brain injury is defined by a one-time event that causes harm to the brain. This harm can cause oxygen deprivation to the brain, which leads to brain cell death within minutes. This can lead to complications with a variety of brain functions, including cognitive (mental), physiological (physical) and emotional.


Accidents, injuries and certain diseases can cause anoxic brain injury. These include:

  • Bike or car accident
  • Brain or skull trauma
  • Carbon monoxide or other toxic gas poisoning
  • Cardiac arrest or stroke
  • Cardiac or pulmonary diseases, such as coronary artery disease or severe pneumonia
  • Drowning
  • Falls from great heights
  • Infections, like meningitis or sepsis
  • Respiratory arrest (stop breathing)
  • Severe loss of blood due to trauma


The severity of symptoms will depend on how long the child is without oxygen and the amount of brain damage. Intellectual, physical or emotional shortfalls may become apparent later, as the child continues to develop. Symptoms include:

  • Apraxia (inability to complete a sequence of movements like brushing teeth)
  • Balance issues (bobbing or weaving)
  • Developmental delays (emotional, growth or intellectual)
  • Difficulty with words, including using the right word or confusing similar terms
  • Impulsive behavior or poor decision-making skills
  • Movement disorders (like spasticity or myoclonus) that cause jerking motions or trembling
  • Problems understanding reasoning
  • Problems understanding and responding to emotions
  • Quadriparesis (weakness in all four limbs)
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Visual problems, including difficulty recognizing colors, objects or shapes

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