To Pull or Not to Pull the Plug

Topics: Blood, Heart, Brain Pages: 2 (672 words) Published: March 1, 2009
To pull plug or not?
What is Brain Dead? By definition Brain Dead is when the entire brain, including the brain stem, has lost all function. Furthermore, the upper part of the brain, the cerebrum, is involved in all conscious functions including sensation, movement, memory, thought and personality. The brain stem is the lower part of the brain and it controls basic vital functions such as wakefulness, breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and temperature. The brain is held in a bony skull and has no room to swell if injured. While a sprained ankle has room for the tissues to swell, the brain does not. As the brain swells, pressure builds up inside the skull causing brain cells to die that are being pushed against the skull. As pressure continues and the brain cannot expand any further, it pushes against the brain stem at the bottom of the brain to expand through the hole at the base of the skull. As all of the blood flow and messages to and from the cerebrum pass through the brain stem, function becomes lost due to the excessive pressure. This is when a person becomes brain dead. With patients who are in intensive care with a severe head injury, the nurse monitors the patient’s responses and level of consciousness, and carries out frequent observations. The nurse notifies the doctor of any deterioration in the patient's condition. Given this information, the doctor may suspect brain death has occurred and therefore carry out tests to check brain function. Two independent doctors diagnose brain death. The tests show whether the brain has any blood flow to it and whether it is functioning. If there is no blood flow the brain dies. A Coma and brain death are different. A coma is an unconscious state from which you may recover; the brain keeps working even while the patient is unconscious. Brain death occurs when the brain has been so badly damaged from the lack of oxygen and blood supply, the brain stops functioning permanently. Both doctors must have...
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