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What is Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

An acquired brain injury (ABI) is brain damage caused by events after birth, rather than as part of a genetic or congenital disorder such as fetal alcohol syndrome, perinatal illness or perinatal hypoxia. ABI can result in cognitive, physical, emotional, or behavioural impairments that lead to permanent or temporary changes in functioning.

These impairments result from either traumatic brain injury (e.g. physical trauma due to accidents, assaults, neurosurgery, head injury etc.) or nontraumatic injury derived from either an internal or external source (e.g. stroke, brain tumours, infection, poisoning, hypoxia, ischemia, encephalopathy or substance abuse). ABI does not include damage to the brain resulting from neurodegenerative disorders.

While research has demonstrated that thinking and behaviour may be altered in virtually all forms of ABI, brain injury is itself a very complex phenomenon having dramatically varied effects. No two persons can expect the same outcome or resulting difficulties. The brain controls every part of human life: physical, intellectual, behavioural, social and emotional. When the brain is damaged, some part of a person's life will be adversely affected.

Consequences of ABI

Consequences of ABI often require a major life adjustment around the person's new circumstances, and making that adjustment is a critical factor in recovery and rehabilitation. While the outcome of a given injury depends largely upon the nature and severity of the injury itself, appropriate treatment plays a vital role in determining the level of recovery.

Emotional Implications of ABI

ABI has been associated with a number of emotional difficulties such as depression, issues with self-control, managing anger impulses and challenges with problem-solving, these challenges also contribute to psychosocial concerns involving social anxiety, loneliness and lower levels of self esteem. These psychosocial problems have been found to contribute to other dilemmas such as reduced frequency of social contact and leisure activities, unemployment, family problems and marital difficulties.

Cognitive impact of ABI

Following acquired brain injury it is common for patients to experience memory loss, memory disorders are one of the most prevalent cognitive deficits experienced in sufferers. However because some aspects of memory are directly linked to attention it can be challenging to assess what components of a deficit are caused by memory and which are fundamentally attention problems.

There is often partial recovery of memory functioning following the initial recovery phase, however permanent handicaps are often reported with ABI patients reporting significantly more memory difficulties when compared people without an acquired brain injury.

Rehabilitation of patients with ABI

Rehabilitation following an acquired brain injury does not follow a set protocol, due to the variety of mechanisms of injury and structures affected. Rather, rehabilitation is an individualized process that will often involve a multi-disciplinary approach.

The rehabilitation team may include but is not limited to nurses, neurologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, music therapists, and psychologists. Physical therapy and other professions can be utilized post- brain injury in order to control muscle tone, regain normal movement patterns, and maximize functional independence. Rehabilitation should be patient-centered and guided by the individual's needs and goals.

Treatment of ABI

ABI treatment options at St George Healthcare