Brain Waves: UAB Traumatic Brain Injury Model System Newsletter Volume 15 | Number 2 | Page 2

LIFE AFTER TBI Understanding Hypoxic and Anoxic Brain Injury People usually think of traumatic brain injury (TBI) when they think of brain injury. These injuries are caused by direct physical trauma to the brain. But brain injuries can happen in other ways, too. We explain hypoxia and anoxia brain injury here. It’s all about oxygen The air you breathe is made up of lots of things. About 78% of the air you breathe is nitrogen. About 21% is oxygen. The rest is made up of other gases like argon, carbon dioxide and methane. You breathe in all these gases, but oxygen is what’s important for your body. Your lungs filter oxygen into your bloodstream. It circulates through your bloodstream to all your body’s cells, tissues and organs to keep them healthy and working as normal. Oxygen and your brain Your brain is your body’s most important organ. In fact, an adult brain uses about 20% of the oxygen you breathe in. That’s about 3 times more oxygen than your muscles use. Like all your body’s organs, your brain needs all of that oxygen to work as normal. When the brain is working normally, nerve cells (neurons) use electrically charged molecules (ions) to communicate with other nerve cells. These molecules cause the release of neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals that deliver the messages from cell to cell. All of these messages are the brain’s very delicate web of communication that normally allows you to move, think, feel and communicate. The brain is very sensitive to drops in blood oxygen levels. For example, there’s less oxygen in the air at higher altitudes. People who are not used to that lower oxygen level might experience: • Dizziness; • Headache; and • Trouble concentrating. When these types of problems happen, the brain reacts to try to counteract the drop in oxygen. One way is to trigger the body to breathe more often to get more oxygen. Over time, the body will slowly adjust to the lower oxygen level. What is hypoxia and anoxia? There are times when the brain can’t compensate for a drop in blood oxygen levels. This leads to one of two problems. • Hypoxia happens when there’s not enough oxygen in the blood. • Anoxia happens when there’s no oxygen in the blood. What is hypoxia and anoxia brain injury? • Hypoxia brain injury results when the brain goes too long without getting enough oxygen. • Anoxia brain injury results when the brain goes too long without any oxygen at all. What causes hypoxia and anoxia brain injury? 1. Blood flow to the brain is slowed or blocked. This can happen with some type of sudden medical crisis, like a blood clot (stroke) or heart attack, for example. 2. Blood flow is normal, but there’s little or no oxygen in the blood. This can happen with a medical condition like lung disease. It can also happen when breathing stops, like when someone is drowning, choking, or suffocating. Hypoxia or anoxia can also happen Get Involved In UAB Research! Brave Initiative The University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB) aims to improve the motor deficit of veterans who have sustained a traumatic brain injury. Potential participants must: • be at least 19 years old and 3 months post TBI; • have movement problems or weakness of the • • arms, but the ability to make at least some limited movements with the more affected hand; have no excessive pain; and be able to undergo MRI If you believe you meet the criteria above and would like to participate in this study, Go to the website, call 205- 934-9768, or email for more information. 2 Project LIFT The University of Alabama at Birmingham Traumatic Brain Injury Model System is evaluating the impact of telephone-based health education programs on health, lifestyle, and aspects of quality of life for people with TBI and their families. Participants are asked to: • answer questions over the phone about your health and lifestyle; • have 2 in-person visits to UAB to collect additional information about your health; and • participate in a 24-26 week telehealth program designed for people with TBI and their families. Call 205-934-3345 or email [email protected] for more information.