What is an anoxic brain injury? Anne Heche head trauma explained after car crash that left her in a coma

The overall life expectancy for patients with anoxic brain injuries can vary based on the severity of the brain damage from lack of oxygen

The family of US actor Anne Heche has said she is “not expected to survive” a severe collision that left her vehicle engulfed in flames.

In a statement, Heche’s family said through a representative that she had suffered “a severe anoxic brain injury”.

The family of US actor Anne Heche has said she is “not expected to survive” a severe collision that left her vehicle engulfed in flames

But what is an anoxic brain injury?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is an anoxic brain injury?

Anoxic brain injuries are caused by a complete lack of oxygen to the brain, which results in the death of brain cells after approximately four minutes of oxygen deprivation, according to the Shepherd Center.

What are the causes of anoxic brain injury?

  • Hypoxic Ischemic injury, also known as stagnant anoxia, may:
    • occur when oxygen-carrying blood cannot reach the brain, resulting in oxygen deprivation
    • be caused by strokes, but can also be caused by other pulmonary conditions, such as cardiac arrest or cardiac arrhythmia
  • Anaemic anoxia occurs when the blood cannot properly carry enough oxygen or if there is not enough blood in the body itself to support the oxygen needs of the brain (i.e., lack of oxygen to the brain)
  • Toxic anoxia occurs when chemicals or poisons hinder the ability of the brain to receive oxygen from blood cells
  • Anoxic anoxia is caused by the lack of oxygen in the air, resulting in suffocation

The overall life expectancy for patients with anoxic brain injuries can vary based on the severity of the brain damage from lack of oxygen, and is something that should be discussed with a patient’s physician, the Shepherd Center said.

What happened to Anne Heche?

Heche crashed her car into a house in the Mar Vista area of Los Angeles, near her own home, at speed on Friday 5 August. The collision caused a fire that took an hour to extinguish, according to reports.

In a statement, Heche’s family said that she had suffered “a severe anoxic brain injury” and was now being kept on life support to determine whether her organs were viable for donation.

The statement read: “We want to thank everyone for their kind wishes and prayers for Anne’s recovery and thank the dedicated staff and wonderful nurses that cared for Anne at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills hospital.

“Unfortunately, due to her accident, Anne Heche suffered a severe anoxic brain injury and remains in a coma, in critical condition. She is not expected to survive.”

“Anne had a huge heart and touched everyone she met with her generous spirit,” the statement added. “More than her extraordinary talent, she saw spreading kindness and joy as her life’s work - especially moving the needle for acceptance of who you love. She will be remembered for her courageous honesty and dearly missed for her light.”