Hypoxic brain damage in children

We offer the best possible therapy

Complications at birth, an inadequate supply of oxygen in the womb, cases of drowning - there can be many causes of hypoxic brain damage. Babies and toddlers are especially at risk. If the brain is not provided with an adequate supply of oxygen or blood, the cells in the brain can die. Often, such critical events, for example following resuscitation, leave behind serious, permanent damage. Often, however, the brain manages to create new connections and replace the function of the damaged cells. In children, this process appears to occur more effectively than in adults, since the brain is still developing. 

Our experienced specialists at Schoen Clinic have innovative treatment methods for young patients. We help the children to build "bypasses" and "side roads" in the brain, as well as helping them and their families to cope well with life despite the defects.  

Causes & symptoms

What is hypoxic brain damage?

Within just a few minutes, a shortage of oxygen to the brain can cause severe problems with brain function. 
Essentially, brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen at birth cannot be reversed. Despite hypoxic brain damage, however, the patient's condition can be improved. This is mainly down to two mechanisms: 
  • The actual brain damage is initially surrounded by swelling. Areas of the brain that are just swollen regain their function once they have recovered. 
  • The brain reorganises itself even during the healing process. The damage may be irreversible, however the brain will in certain circumstances find ways of replacing the lost functions with new connections.

Hypoxic brain damage: Causes

There are many potential causes of a lack of oxygen to the brain. 

Before and during birth, complications can occur that may lead to brain damage resulting from a lack of oxygen. These include a lack of oxygen supply, premature placenta rupture or a compressed umbilical cord. 
The primary risks to small children are external influences.

Possible causes:
  • Drowning or strangulation accidents
  • Poisonings
  • Traffic accidents
  • Brain haemorrhages
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Cardiac arrest

Symptoms: Hypoxic brain damage can cause the following

The severity of the hypoxic brain damage depends on multiple factors. They include how long the oxygen was in short supply for, the severity of the circulatory collapse and the surrounding temperature.
If the duration of the lack of oxygen was relatively short, initial reactions can occur quite quickly. If the patient wakes up, coordination, perception and memory problems may occur. These problems may resolve completely after a few days, although in some cases they are permanent. In babies especially, the degree of brain damage is hard to assess.
With severe hypoxic brain damage, the person affected will fall into a coma. This can transition to a permanent vegetative state or "waking coma".


Diagnosis: How we determine the extent of the damage

When your child comes to us in Neuropaediatrics, we carry out extensive clinical neurological examinations as well as instrument-guided investigations. These include:
  • An EEG to pick up any general changes, as well as any hidden signs of epilepsy
  • Visually and acoustically evoked potentials - in this case, we stimulate a sensory organ or a nerve in order to test the consistency of perception
  • MRI imaging during the course of rehabilitation in order to determine the full extent of the damage and to rule out complications