Brain Death

Brain death is the total and irreversible loss of all brain function and the circumstance under which the donation of vital organs most commonly takes place.

Brain death occurs when a person has an irreversible, catastrophic brain injury, which causes total cessation of all brain stem functions. Brain death is not a coma or persistent vegetative state. In India, brain death is determined in the hospital by four doctors, one of them is a neurologist or neuro-surgeon. The tests are done twice with a gap of six hours to confirm death. This team is not associated with a transplantation team.

Brain death is usually caused by:
  1. Trauma to the brain (i.e. severe head injury caused by a motor vehicle crash, fall or blow to the head)
  2. Cerebrovascular injury (i.e. stroke or aneurysm)
  3. Anoxia before a lack of blood flow/oxygen to the brain (may be due to drowning or a heart attack)
  4. Brain tumor

Brain dead patient looks to be asleep, is warm to touch and appears to breath, even though it is through the ventilator. And so the family finds it difficult to understand the concept of brain stem death when this tragic situation is explained to them. Once the family has accepted that their loved one is dead, they are presented with the option of organ and tissue donation, in order to help other patients.

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