Brain death

Brain death

Last Reviewed : 12/24/2020
Brain death

Brain death is the complete and irreversible loss of brain function (including involuntary activity necessary to sustain life). Brain death is one of the two ways of determination of death, according to the Uniform Determination of Death Act of the United States (the other way of determining death being "irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions").It differs frompersistent vegetative state, in which some autonomic functions remain.

The Australia and New Zealand Intensive Care Society (ANZICS) states that the "determination of brain death requires that there is unresponsive coma, the absence of brain-stem reflexes and the absence of respiratory centre function, in the clinical setting in which these findings are irreversible. In particular, there must be definite clinical or neuro-imaging evidence of acute brain pathology (e.g. traumatic brain injury, intracranial haemorrhage, hypoxic encephalopathy) consistent with the irreversible loss of neurological function."

Brain death is used as an indicator of legal death in many jurisdictions, but it is defined inconsistently. Various parts of the brain may keep living when others die, and the term "brain death" has been used to refer to various combinations. For example, although a major medical dictionary says that "brain death" is synonymous with "cerebral death" (death of the cerebrum), the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) system defines brain death as including the brainstem. The distinctions can be important because, for example, in someone with a dead cerebrum but a living brainstem, the heartbeat and ventilation can continue unaided, whereas in whole-brain death (which includes brain stem death), only life support equipment would keep those functions going. Patients classified as brain-dead can have their organs surgically removed fororgan donation; though not everyone agrees with this practice, preferring to limit organ donation to those individuals who have suffered the death of all of their brain and the death of their cardiac and respiratory systems (biological, or full, death). However, if one limits the criteria to those individuals, procuring viable organs can become much more difficult.


We researched this topic for you and found the following best online resources. They are categorized into basic, advanced, and research level based on the extent of information you need. You will be taken to the respective websites by pressing on the links below.


Basic information: live science life after brain death: is the body still 'alive'? nhs uk brain stem death web md what 'brain-dead' means better health brain death merck manuals(professional version) brain death life in the fast lane brain death


Advanced information: aan clinician guideline supplement: practical guidance update: determining brain death in adults brain brain death brain death determination health line the changing definition of what is ‘brain dead’ not all hospital brain death policies comply with guidelines guidelines for brain death in children: toolkit radiopedia brain death the criterion of brain death test for determination of clinical brain death brain arrest: the neurological determination of death and organ donor management in canada


Research: toshihide tanaka, naoki kato, yuzuru hasegawa, and yuichi murayama, “unpredicted sudden death due to recurrent infratentorial hemangiopericytoma presenting as massive intratumoral hemorrhage: a case report and review of the literature,” case reports in neurological medicine, vol. 2014, article id 230681, 5 pages, 2014. Doi:10.1155/2014/230681

Al-maslamani y, abdul muhsin as, mohammed ali oi, fadhil ra, abu jeish ar. Potential brain death organ donors - challenges and prospects: a single center retrospective review. Saudi j kidney dis transpl [serial online] 2014 [cited 2016 aug 1];25:589-96. Available from: dialysis disequilibrium syndrome: brain death following hemodialysis for metabolic acidosis and acute renal failure – a case report by sean m bagshaw et al., bmc nephrology20045:9 doi: 10.1186/1471-2369-5-9

Goila ak, pawar m. The diagnosis of brain death. Indian j crit care med [serial online] 2009 [cited 2016 aug 1];13:7-11. Available from:

Dhanwate ad. Brainstem death: a comprehensive review in indian perspective . Indian j crit care med [serial online] 2014 [cited 2016 aug 1];18:596-605. Available from:

Meeker rb, williams ks. The p75 neurotrophin receptor: at the crossroad of neural repair and death. Neural regen res [serial online] 2015 [cited 2016 aug 1];10:721-5. Available from: case report article front. Neurol., 26 april 2016 | a case of acute motor axonal neuropathy mimicking brain death and review of the literature by sandhya ravikumar et al.,, int. J. Mol. Sci. 2011, 12(11), 8181-8207; doi:10.3390/ijms12118181review effect of polyphenols on oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction in neuronal death and brain edema in cerebral ischemia by kiran s. Panickar and richard a. Anderson indian j crit care med. 2009 jan-mar; 13(1): 7–11. Doi: 10.4103/0972-5229.53108 pmcid: pmc2772257 the diagnosis of brain death by ajay kumar goila and mridula pawar.. evidence-based guideline update: determining brain death in adults report of the quality standards subcommittee of the american academy of neurology by eelco f.m. Wijdicks, md, phd, et al., doi: june 8, 2010 vol. 74 no. 23 1911-1918 brain death: criteria, signs, and tests by omar hasan kasule et al., journal of taibah university medical sciences volume 8, issue 1, april 2013, pages 1–6 doi:10.1016/j.jtumed.2013.02.001 brain death: assessment, controversy, and confounding factors by richard b. Arbour, rn, msn, ccrn, cnrn, ccns doi: 10.4037/ccn2013215crit care nurse december 2013 vol. 33 no. 6 27-46


Related videos: clinical brain death testing brain death understanding brain death - english brain death brain death examination" by david urion, md and robert tasker, mbbs, md for openpediatrics


Presentations/quiz/newspaper articles: cnn why brain dead means really dead bbc news drug 'may slow' alzheimer's brain death dead could be brought 'back to life' in groundbreaking project times of india certifying brain death now a must in delhi the hindu a strange project to ‘revive’ the brain dead wtvr judge rules 2-year-old girl can be tested for ‘brain death’ the atlantic nobody declared brain dead ever wakes up feeling pretty good la times what constitutes brain death? Depends on which hospital you're in, study finds cbs news how do hospitals determine if someone is brain dead? time brain death really is death daily mail could we soon reverse death? 'Reanimation' firm is looking for ways to bring brain-dead people back to life

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