An acquired brain injury (ABI) is any brain damage that happens after birth.
Sudden onset brain injuries are caused by trauma, lack of oxygen, strokes or drug use, whereas insidious onset brain injuries result from prolonged alcohol or substance abuse, tumours or degenerative neurological diseases.
Severity of the damage can range from mild to extreme, including coma or even death.
Symptoms of brain injury may include loss of consciousness, dizziness, drowsiness, vomiting, headache, nausea, confusion or other cognitive problems.
People with an ABI may experience long-term difficulties with concentration and short-term memory, altered sleep patterns, personality change, depression, irritability. Other emotional and behavioural problems may become evident.
CT brain scans and x-rays can assist in pinpointing the exact areas of damage within the brain. Immediate treatment for an ABI may involve surgery to control bleeding in or around the brain, monitoring and controlling of pressure inside the head, ensuring blood flow to the brain and treating the body for other injuries or infections. Recovery for surgery will depend on the extent and location of the damage, the age and general health of the person and the speed and quality of treatment.
Some people experience seizures as a result of brain injuries which may require long-term anticonvulsant treatment.
For someone dealing with an ABI and their family and friends supporting them, it can be quite distressing. It is important for everyone involved to be informed about ABI’s and understand recovery is a slow process.