What is an Acquired Brain Injury?

Acquired brain injury refers to permanent injury to the structures of the brain sustained after birth. It may result in changes to personality and impairment of cognitive, physical and sensory functioning.

An acquired brain injury may be caused by:

  • Trauma: an assault to the brain, not degenerative or congenital in nature but caused by an external physical force that may produce a diminished or altered state of consciousness. This type of injury may be caused by motor vehicle accidents, sport or work related accidents, falls or assault.
  • Poisoning: as a consequence of substance abuse including alcohol, drugs or accidental exposure to mercury, pesticides or other harmful chemicals.
  • Hypoxia: a lack of oxygen to the brain. For example, near drowning or a severe asthma attack.
  • Infection: this may include meningitis or encephalitis.
  • Tumour: brain injury sustained as a consequence of a tumour and/or treatment for the tumour.
  • Stroke: a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) which may be caused by a blocked or burst artery in the brain.

A person with an acquired brain injury may experience some of the following changes:

  • Physical and sensory changes: impaired sight, hearing, smell, taste or touch; slow or slurred speech; paralysis; reduced control of movements; fatigue.
  • Cognitive changes: memory problems; reduced concentration span; difficulties with organisation, problem solving and decision making; reduced motivation; word finding difficulties; slowed thinking.
  • Personality changes: impulsive behaviour; reduced tolerance to frustration; reduced insight; less control over emotions and behaviour.