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130 What is brain death?


This article is from the Organ Transplant FAQ, by mike_holloway@hotmail.com (Michael Holloway) with numerous contributions by others.

130 What is brain death?

Brain death 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.)

There are several ways in which a person can become brain dead, these

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.

When any of the above occur, they cause swelling of the brain. Because the
brain is enclosed in the skull, it does not have room to swell, thus
pressure within the skull increases (this is "intracranial pressure"). This
can stop blood flow to the brain, killing brain cells and causes herniation
of the brain (pushing the brain outside of its normal space). When brain
cells die, they do not grow back, thus any damage caused is permanent and

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.

In Iowa (and most other states) two physicians must declare a person brain
dead before organ donation can proceed.

Steve Emery (procurement coordinator), Iowa Statewide Organ Procurement

Other questions answered on the Ask TransWeb page


* Meds prior to kidney transplant
* Post-transplant pregnancies: What information is available?
* Locating a source of corneas for research
* How should gums swollen by cyclosporine be cared for?
* Has anyone waited three years for a double lung txp before?
* Diet recommendations for ADPKD?
* Is it possible for a male to conceive children while taking FK506?
* Would discontinuing txp meds help prevent skin cancer?
* Can one switch from cyclo to FK506?
* How long does it take to recover from kidney donation?
* Side effects or concerns about switching from Imuran to CellCept?
* What are the indicators for kidney transplant?
* Is there any relationship between transplantation and Parkinson's?
* How can I reach as many transplant recipients as possible?
* What are the real costs of transplants?
* Is there an organ transplant newsgroup?
* Waiting List Depletion
* Are there CRF-related newsgroups?
* How can I get money donated for a heart txp?
* Can you direct me to a lung txp program?
* How long does kidney donation recovery take?
* Can I donate if I have Hepatitis C?
* When was the first liver transplant?
* What are the risks to kidney donors?
* Info on news coverage of the 25th anniversary of the first heart
* What is the cause and treatment of neuropathic pain after txp?
* How do you cope with the stress of waiting on the transplant list?
* Where can I find support groups?
* Was your transplant worth it?
* How long can a liver last ?


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