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Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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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
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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.
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