Get your health question answered instantly from our pool of 18000+ doctors from over 80 specialties

152 Doctors Online
Doctor Image
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

I will be looking into your question and guiding you through the process. Please write your question below.

How long does brain be alive after heart stops beating?

How long is your brain alive after your heart stops beating and can you hear what is said at that time? My brother completed suicide April 5th this year by stabbing himself in the heart 2x. The doctors could not repair his heart therefore he was declared deceased BUT when the doctor came in to tell us they could not repair the heart, he then said his brain would still be alive for a couple of hours and that he could still hear what we were saying to him at that time. So we all went into the room at the hospital where he was and said our goodbyes. I m wondering if this is true about the brain and his being able to hear us? Has anyone heard of this before?
Thu, 10 Dec 2009
Report Abuse
  User's Response
's  Response
When there is no blood actively being pumped to the brain, the nerve cells in the cerebral cortex die in two minutes. The nerve cells in the midbrain that control unconscious activity such as breathing can last thirty minutes and the nerve cells in the spinal cord can last an hour without blood flow. The brain has no way of storing oxygen. Nerve cells require oxygen and glucose to function. If the heart were not pumping, the oxygen in the stagnant blood would be used up by the cerebral cortex in two minutes. In order to be aware of something the cerebral cortex has to be capable of receiving input. For sound to be interpreted by the auditory cortex there would have to be fresh blood supply. Conceivably at the level of the midbrain there might be some emotional recognition. When people are in a coma, depending how deep, they do react to painful stimuli (that's how they test how deep the coma is) and the patient can sometimes shout out emotional language in response. The terminology "brain dead" is used for people who are in a vegetative state (resuscitated after the oxygen supply was cut off e.g. by drowning). I know this is a very clinical response to a very painful question. You and your family have my sympathy.
Disclaimer: These answers are for your information only and not intended to replace your relationship with your treating physician.
This is a short, free answer. For a more detailed, immediate answer, try our premium service [Sample answer]
Share on

Related questions you may be interested in

doctor1 MD

How long is your brain alive after yourHow long is your brain alive after your heart stops beating and can you hear what is said at that time.. My boyfriend has a heart problem.. His heart leaks, and if it stops.. I don t know what i ll do, do u think he ll hear my last words?

doctor1 MD

How long can you go if your heart stops before brain injury occurs. My very dear cousin had a massive heart attack on Saturday after running a marathon. They performed CPR on her for 9 minutes until the abulance got there and shocked her. It took another hour to get her back to a regular rhythm.

doctor1 MD

A couple weeks ago, my cousin was injured in a car accident. Trauma to the head and other injuries. My aunt emailed this morning and said: The Emergency room doctor told us that his heart was beating but his brain was dead and all doctors in the room decided to stop to help him. I have two questions which I m seeking an opinion on: 1. If a brain is dead, can the heart continue to function for a long period of time? In this case, I think it had to be 20 minutes from the time of the accident to the time the ambulance arrived at the ER. 2. Wasn t termination of further medical assistance really up to the next-of-kin? I m just looking for a simple explanation or non-binding opinion. Any assistance on this matter that you could extend to me would be appreciated. I have to go visit my aunt on Tuesday and I d like to have these answers so that I go with some peace of mind before I see her and make her more upset than she already is. Thank you for your time and help.