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What Is Brain Death

when brain is no longer functioning in any capacity and never will again...

Tina S
Tina S
Jan 16, 2010
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There are two ways that death can be diagnosed. 
 
The first is obvious: once somebody has stopped breathing and their heart no longer beats, they are defined as dead.
The second way that death is diagnosed is less obvious, and is used in circumstances where a person is in an intensive care unit and a ventilator is keeping their heart beating and oxygen circulating through their blood.
 
The term brain death is defined as "irreversible unconsciousness with complete loss of brain function," including the brain stem, although the heartbeat may continue.
 
It is defined as the irreversible loss of all functions of the brain. It can be determined in several ways.
 
First - no electrical activity in the brain; this is determined by an EEG. 
 
Second - no blood flow to the brain; this is determined by blood flow studies. 
 
Third - absence of function of all parts of the brain - as determined by clinical assessment (no movement, no response to stimulation, no breathing, no brain reflexes.)
 
Signs of brain death
 
Some of the signs of brain death include: 
 
•The pupils don’t respond to light. 
 
•The person shows no reaction to pain. 
 
•The eyes don’t blink when the eye surface is touched (corneal reflex). 
 
•The eyes don’t move when the head is moved (oculocephalic reflex). 
 
•The eyes don’t move when ice water is poured into the ear (oculo-vestibular reflex). 
 
•There is no gagging reflex when the back of the throat is touched. 
 
•The person doesn’t breathe when the ventilator is switched off. 
 
•An electroencephalogram test shows no brain activity at all.
 
Brain death is not the same as coma

Brain death differs from other states of unconsciousness in important ways. For example, coma is similar to deep sleep, except that no amount of external stimuli can prompt the brain to become awake and alert.
 
However, the person is alive and recovery is possible. Brain death is often confused with a persistent vegetative state, but these conditions are not the same either. A persistent vegetative state means the person has lost higher brain functions, but their undamaged brain stem still allows essential functions like heart rate and respiration to continue. A person in a vegetative state is alive and may recover to some degree, given time. Brain death means the person has died.

Causes
 
Brain stem death can occur when the blood and oxygen supply to the brain is stopped. This can be caused by:
 
•a heart attack,
•a stroke, or
•a blood clot.

Besides, there are several ways in which a person can become brain dead, these include:

1. Anoxia caused by drowning, respiratory diseases, or drug overdose.

2. Ischemia - Blockage of an artery leading to the brain or in the brain,
heart attack (stoppage of the heart for a period of time), bleeding in
the brain.

3. Intracranial hematoma - caused by a head injury (a blow to the head)
or a ruptured aneurism.

4. A gunshot wound to the head - causes destruction of brain tissue and
swelling of the brain.

5. Intracranial Aneurysm - the ballooning of a blood vessel supplying the
brain - can cut off blood supply or rupture.

6. Brain tumors - can destroy brain tissue and increase pressure within
the brain.

Some points to note

* A persons' heart can still be beating because of the ventilator and
medications helping to keep the blood pressure normal.

* A person who is declared brain dead is legally dead.

Through the advancements of modern science, humans have learned how to keep a body alive beyond a point that natural means could achieve by themselves. However, doing so comes at a price. Usually, for the person involved, this is a last-ditch effort to try to save them when medical doctors may think recovery is still possible. Therefore, in most cases, the use of such machines is only temporary until further evaluations can be done and a diagnosis of brain death can be made.

Until the late twentieth century, death was defined in terms of loss of heart and lung functions, both of which are easily observable criteria. However, with modern technology these functions can be maintained even when the brain is dead, although the patient's recovery is hopeless, sometimes resulting in undue financial and emotional stress to family members. French neurologists were the first to describe brain death in 1958. Patients with coma depasse were unresponsive to external stimuli and unable to maintain homeostasis. A Harvard Medical School committee proposed the definition used in this entry, which requires demonstration of total cessation of brain function. This definition is almost universally accepted.

Pain for the family

Because life support machines maintain the person’s breathing and heart rate, they are warm to the touch. This gives the illusion that the person is still alive. Family members may hold a false hope that the person is just comatose and could wake up with time or treatment. 

The brain will never recover. The respiratory support equipment keeps oxygen flowing to the organs in order to help keep the heart beating, which gives the appearance that your family member is living. When the ventilator is discontinued, the heart will stop beating after several minutes without oxygen. It is important for the medical staff members to fully explain that brain death is final and that the person is dead and has no chance of ever regaining consciousness again.

If you have heard about a person who was supposedly brain dead and recovered, they were actually in a deep coma or vegetative state with slight brain activity—not brain dead.

Organ Donation

The heart has its own pacemaker independent of the brain. As long as it has oxygen and glucose, it continues to beat and give blood and oxygen to other organs, such as the kidneys, liver or pancreas. Unless damaged by injury or other disease, these organs may be used to help another individual through an organ transplant.
 
Federal law requires hospitals to report all brain deaths (or imminent deaths) and cardiac deaths to OneLegacy. The families of all deceased patients whom OneLegacy determines to be medically suitable for donation should be offered the opportunity to donate.

If the person was a registered organ donor, or if their family knew of their wish to be an organ donor, their death is declared but the ventilator is left on. Drugs that help preserve the internal organs are still given. The dead person then undergoes an operation to remove viable organs such as kidneys. As with all organ and tissue donors, he or she is deceased and no longer feels pain. After the operation is complete, the ventilator is switched off. Funeral arrangements can then be made by the family.

Religious views
 
Religious views on organ donation are generally very favourable, although there is a debate in certain religious groups on the validity of current brain death criteria. Accordingly, the more theologians are accepting of current brain death criteria, the more they are likely to support organ donation.
 
Preventing brain death
 
1. Cardiovascular disease
 
The best way to prevent cardiovascular diseases is to eat a healthy, balanced diet, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking and the excessive consumption of alcohol.
 
2. Diet
 
You should limit the amount of salt that you eat to no more than 6g (0.2oz) a day because too much salt will increase your blood pressure. One teaspoonful of salt is about 6g.
 
3. Exercise
 
The exercise should be strenuous enough to leave your heart beating faster, and you should feel slightly out of breath.
 
4. Health and safety
 
Many head injuries are the result of unforeseen accidents that are very difficult to predict or prevent. Safety helmets can reduce the risk of a serious head injury by up to 85% in the event of an accident.

 

 


 

Author's note: Ref:Doctors site, Health site.
Keywords: Brain Death,clinically death,signs,coma,irreversible,unconsciousness,complete loss,Brain tumors,blood pressure,legally death,pain,organ donation,prevent,Federal law,cardiac,ventilation,viable.



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