Have you had a child, parent or family member suffer or die from a hypoxic brain injury in Oklahoma?

This series will cover hypoxia injuries and the issue of legal liability related to these injuries.

The Role of the Respiratory System in the Body

To understand how hypoxic injuries occur, it is first necessary to cover the role of the respiratory system in the body. The major function of the respiratory system is the proper exchanging of different gasses.[1] For example, the body brings in Oxygen (O2) and removes Carbon Dixoide (CO2).

If this gas exchange system is not working adequately, than a form of Respiratory Failure occurs. Hypoxemia and Hypercapnia are both forms of respiratory failure that result from insufficient or inadequate exchanging of gasses.

The relationship between Ventilation and Perfusion

Ventilation (V) is how the body brings air in and out of the system. Perfusion (Q) refers to how the body will pump blood through the system, in conjunction with the ventilation. In normal lungs, there is an approximate ratio of one-part ventilation to one-part perfusion. If there is a major mismatch in these ratios, then Hypoxemia or other complications can occur. This is referred to as  V/Q mismatch.

How Respiratory problems develop in the body

There can be many underlying causes of respiratory problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pneumonia, or even pain. Pain can interfere with chest and abdominal wall movement and therefore can compromise ventilation.[2]

Drugs can also suppress the ability to breathe. CNS depressants, such as opioids and benzodiazepines, can decrease the body’s ability to react to CO2, and therefore those levels can rise (causing a V/Q mismatch). Head injuries can also cause V/Q mismatches.

Observing how quickly or slowly Respiratory Failure can develop

Medical experts have found that, “Respiratory failure may develop suddenly (minutes or hours) or gradually (several days or longer).[3]

Hypoxemia occurs when Oxygen in the blood is below normal. If the levels are so low as to cause actual symptoms of inadequate oxygenation, then the condition is referred to as Hypoxia. Hypoxemia can lead to hypoxia if not corrected.

If the hypoxia is severe enough and prolonged enough, it can cause permanent brain damage.

Hypoxic Brain Injury Lawyer in Oklahoma

In the next article, we will look at cases where hypoxic brain injuries occur due to medical negligence or hospital negligence. If you would like to consult an attorney about a hypoxic brain injury, you can submit your questions online or call (405) 701-6016.

Travis Charles Smith is an attorney in Oklahoma City who has handled medical negligence, hospital negligence, and brain injury cases in Oklahoma. Travis has experience in assessing the client’s case for a lawsuit and getting the client the adequate compensation he or she deserves from the court process. To contact Travis about your case, send us an email here or call (405) 701-6016.


[1] Lewis, et al. (2011) Medical Surgical Nursing. 8th Edition.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Id.

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