Acquired brain injury is damage caused to the brain after birth rather than arising as a result of a genetic or congenital disorder. Anyone can suffer from an acquired brain injury but the most likely group to be affected are young men aged between 18-25 years old. By far the most predominant cause of injury is traumatic head injuries from:
• Road traffic accidents (RTA’s)
• Falls and assaults
People who have suffered an acquired brain injury (ABI) can face a range of difficulties, including physical disabilities, problems with memory and concentration, speech and language difficulties, and changes in behaviour.
ABI can be used to describe either:
- Traumatic brain injury which describes head injury such as might be caused by a fall or a road traffic accident (e.g. any impact to the head and brain)
- Non-traumatic brain injury which includes damage caused by Haemorrhages (bleeding into the brain), strokes, tumours, lack of oxygen (hypoxia) following surgery for example, infectious diseases (such as encephalitis), contusions (bruising) where the brain has moved against the skull during impact.
These may not necessarily cause lasting damage; however CT scans can help identify this.
Long Term Effects of ABI
Lasting effects of a brain injury are wide and varied and no individual case is the same. Some individuals may need very little assistance whereby others may require a long period of hospital care and rehabilitation. If the injury is deemed to be moderate or severe, longer-term effects that are common after brain injury may include the following:
- Physical effects (problems with movement and sensations)
- Cognitive problems (thinking processes such as attention, memory and concentration may be affected to varying degrees)
- Behavioural Difficulties (personality may change and cause the individual to lack self control and/or motivation). Also, the individual may not accept or see that they have changed as a result of their injury.
Other Identified Problems
ABI affects each person individually and not every effect will be present for each individual. Other areas where problems can arise include:
Communication – All aspects of communication may be affected including speech, understanding, reading and writing. In severe cases people may not understand even simple language, and are unable to put a sentence together.
Swallowing problems – People may cough or choke when eating and drinking. In more severe cases chest infections can develop as food has gone down the ‘wrong way’ and entered the lungs.
Muscle weakness or lack of coordination (dysarthria) – People may have difficulty with the control of pace and volume of their speech. Writing and gesture can also be affected by muscle weakness.
Poor concentration and attention – This may make it difficult for people to follow a conversation.
Speech and language – Speech and language therapists are often involved with multi-professional teams working with people following a brain injury. A team may look at each person’s ability to cope with the physical actions of daily life, alongside the communication necessary to express individual needs.
The Rehabilitation Process
When an individual receives a brain injury, there are many pathways they may take in the process of rehabilitation. In some cases, people are hospitalised and then transferred to a suitable rehabilitation unit.
Any brain injury service should be designed to deliver a community based service that meets the needs of the individual and their families, and can include one or more of the following:
- Assessment and service provision
- Assistance in applications for benefits and home care services
- Housing related support for day-to-day living in community
- Enable access to community resources/support groups and further information
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