When someone experiences hypoxia during a cardiac arrest, it can cause serious damage to the brain and other organs. Hypoxia occurs when the body is not getting enough oxygen, and this can happen when the heart is not pumping blood effectively. During a cardiac arrest, the heart stops pumping blood, which means that the brain and other organs are no longer receiving the oxygen and nutrients they need to function properly. If this lack of oxygen continues for too long, it can cause permanent damage to the brain and other organs.

The severity of the brain damage that occurs after a cardiac arrest can vary depending on how long the person was without oxygen and how quickly they received treatment. In some cases, the brain may be able to recover from the damage, but in other cases, the damage may be permanent and may result in long-term cognitive or physical impairments. These impairments may include problems with memory, concentration, and thinking, as well as physical problems such as paralysis or difficulty with movement and coordination.

Common Sequelae

Hypoxic brain injury may cause a variety of difficulties ranging from subtle to obvious, e.g.

  • Changes in thinking skills (memory, concentration)
  • Insight (being aware of difficulties)
  • Disorientation
  • Personality changes
  • Communication difficulties
  • Drowsiness/reduced level of consciousness
  • Balance impairments
  • Physical weakness
  • Difficulties swallowing
  • Low mood


Recovering from brain hypoxia depends largely on how long your brain has gone without oxygen. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may have recovery challenges that may or may not eventually resolve.

Issues caused by hypoxia or cardiac arrest are known as sequelae and many of the common ones are covered on this website.

More Information

You can find further information and resources on the Headway website.

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