About Brain Injury
A brain injury can either be classed as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by either a closed head injury or open head injury, following a road traffic accident, falls or assaults. An acquired brain injury (ABI) can be caused by an aneurysm, haemorrhage, tumour, encephalitis, hydrocephalus, hypoxic/anoxic, toxic/chemical or a stroke.
Types of Brain Injury
Acquired brain injury can be caused by a whole variety of different means. But however it happens the symptoms are caused because a part of the brain has either been damaged or destroyed.
The brain, along with the spinal cord and network of nerves, controls the information flow throughout the body, voluntary actions such as walking, reading, and talking, and involuntary reactions such as breathing and digestion. In essence it is the computer that runs the body and controls everything we do.
The brain is divided into a number of different sections; the brain stem, the diencephalon, the cerebrum (which is divided into two cerebral hemispheres), and the cerebellum, and each section deals with a number of different functions. The combination of symptoms which a person with a brain injury experiences therefore depends upon the part of the brain that has been damaged. People with a brain injury have damaged different parts of the brain and that is why each one’s condition is unique.
Brain injury can be acquired from a number of different means, which can be described as:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI). This is the most common cause of brain injury and occurs when someone receives a blow to the head, for example, from a fall, a road traffic accident, an assault or a sporting injury. Boxers are often said to be ‘punchdrunk’, but their symptoms, such as slow cognitive functioning and slurred speech, are effectively due to an injury to the brain, received from persistent blows to the head.
- Brain haemhorrage. If not discovered early, the bleeding to the brain caused by a brain haemhorrage can result in significant pressure on the brain and consequent damage to brain cells. In some cases the damage caused can be quite serious.
- Brain tumour. Again the pressure caused by a tumour will cause damage and the larger the tumour the more damage will be caused. Inevitable brain injury may also result from the surgery which is undertaken to remove a tumour, even though surgeons do their very best to avoid such injury.
- Stroke. This is a form of brain injury which affects a very specific part of the brain, causing easily recognisable symptoms.
- Hypoxia. Brain injury is caused by hypoxia when the supply of blood to the brain, and therefore oxygen, is interrupted or restricted. This can happen in a whole variety of ways, including carbon monoxide poisoning, excessive bleeding, choking, suffocation, cardiac arrest, and as a complication of general anaesthesia. The longer the brain is deprived of oxygen the greater the damage that is caused. That is usually why people who are in a persistent vegetative state are unable to function.
- Disease. Certain diseases, such as meningitis, veneral disease, AIDS and encephalopathy can cause irreparable damage to the brain.
Traumatic brain injury
A traumatic brain injury is caused by a trauma to the head causing either an open or closed head injury. This can be resulting from a trip or fall, accidents at home or work, road traffic accidents or from an assault. Resulting symptoms can include difficulties with speech and language, physical disability, cognition problems, memory loss, lack of concentration, emotional and mental instability.
Acquired brain injury
An acquired brain injury covers all types of brain injury that have occurred since birth. These can include aneurysm, hydrocephalus, brain tumour, haemorrhage, encephalitis or stroke. The resulting symptoms of an acquired brain injury can be very similar to those of a traumatic brain injury.
Rehabilitation following brain injury
Depending on the type and severity of the brain injury there are several methods of rehabilitation. It is important to access professionals as soon as possible following the injury for the best outcomes to be achieved, these may include occupational therapists, speech and language, and physio- therapists. The most visible progress happens within the first 6 months, but that is not to say further rehabilitation will cease after that point, progress will be slower but can carry on for years following the injury.
When brain cells have been destroyed they cannot re-generate, but new pathways can be encouraged by rehabilitation and activity.
Rehabilitation helps the brain injury survivor and their family to cope with possible longer term problems.