What is Acquired Brain Injury
Acquired Brain injury (ABI) is any damage to the brain that has occurred since birth, and is non-progressive. ABI therefore excludes any brain injury that was present at birth (congenital brain injury) or any progressive degenerative conditions, such as dementia, Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s. Acquired Brain Injuries can be classified as traumatic brain injuries (TBI) or non-traumatic brain injuries.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI):
These are caused by a sudden trauma to the head, causing in damage to the skull, resulting in bruising and pressure on the brain tissue. TBI usually result in localised damage to the brain, but there can also be some shearing and tearing of the brain tissue and nerve fibres in other areas of the brain, causing more widespread damage. Following TBI, there can also be some damage to bones, muscles and tissues throughout the rest of the body.
Most common causes of TBI:
Road traffic accident
Falls from ladders, trees or down stairs.
Work place injuries
Non-traumatic Brain Injury:
Caused by a disease or some form of damage to the brain tissue. This can be gradual onset such as a tumour, or sudden onset such as a disruption to the blood supply. Like TBIs these can cause either localised damage or more widespread damage.
Most common causes of Non-traumatic Brain Injury:
Infections such as meningitis or encephalitis
Vascular abnormalities that result in a bleed or disruption of blood supply to the brain
Hypoxia (a lack of oxygen to the brain) can be caused when a person stops breathing for any reason e.g. drowning or respiratory arrest.
Given the diverse nature of acquired brain injuries, the effects on each individual can vary dramatically. When an ABI results in a focal lesion the symptoms and area of the body affected are more localised, however when there is more widespread damage to the brain tissue the individual may have a more complex presentation. Some of the common symptoms of ABIs are:
– Weakness affecting one or both sides.
– Altered or decreased sensation
– Balance and co-ordination difficulties.
– Difficulty with speaking and swallowing.
– Post-traumatic epilepsy
– Difficulties maintaining attention and concentration
– Changes to short term and long term memory
– Lack of insight and awareness about difficulties
– Cognitive impairments and personality changes which range from temporary impairments in thinking and memory to permanent changes in behaviour.
– Perceptual problems
– Mood changes, such as anxiety and depression
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