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What is an Acquired Brain Injury? Understanding the Impact of the Injury

An acquired brain injury (ABI) is brain damage most typically caused by sudden, external physical trauma. The Ontario Brain Injury Association’s (OBIA) 2012 Impact Report shows ABI is 15 times more common than a spinal cord injury. In fact, an estimated 18,000 new cases of brain injury are reported each year in Ontario.

Understanding how acquired brain injury occurs and the long-term implications may help a victim and his or her family better understand the impact of the trauma.

What is an acquired brain injury?

Acquired brain injury is an umbrella term used to describe various types of brain injury that occur anytime in a person’s life after birth. The term sometimes is used interchangeably with “traumatic brain injury,” though an acquired brain injury may include damage caused by a stroke or illness, whereas traumatic brain injury does not.

An ABI may affect one or multiple parts of the brain. Severity can range from a mild concussion with limited long-term effects to permanent disability or even death.

There are two primary types of acquired brain injury:

  • penetrating brain injury – occurs when an object causes the skull to break (such as a bullet wound); and
  • closed-head injury – occurs when there is no break in the skull. Typically involves a rapid movement that causes bruising or damage to brain tissues and blood vessels.

The nature of the injury may have a profound impact on the long-term implications of the ABI.

How Acquired Brain Injuries Occur

The OBIA’s 2012 Impact Report provides clues into the primary reasons for acquired brain injury in the province.

Among the most common causes in 2012 were:

  • automobile accidents;
  • motorcycle accidents;
  • bicycle accidents;
  • falls (such as trip and fall and slip and fall accidents);
  • illness; and
  • pedestrian accidents.

Car accidents are the most common factor, accounting for almost 40 percent of new ABIs in 2012 in Ontario.

Complications of an Acquired Brain Injury

The OBIA reports more than 80 percent of ABI victims suffer some form of amnesia.

Other potential complications include:

  • coma;
  • difficulty solving problems;
  • confusion;
  • loss of sense of time;
  • tremors;
  • poor coordination;
  • weakness/fatigue;
  • difficulty with speech;
  • seizures;
  • dizziness;
  • poor sleeping habits;
  • changes in personality and mood;
  • irritability; and
  • frequent headaches.

An acquired brain injury can affect a patient’s emotional, financial, social and physical wellbeing. Doctors, therapists, vocational experts and other professionals are best situated to evaluate a patient’s long-term prognosis.

Treating an Acquired Brain Injury

Prompt medical attention is crucial after an accident – an acquired brain injury can be fatal. Medical studies have shown destroyed brain cells cannot regenerate. However, early treatment may help mitigate some of the damage associated with a serious brain injury.

Additionally, specialized care may help a victim lead a comparatively healthy and fulfilling life.

Recommended treatment may include:

  • medications;
  • surgery;
  • cognitive therapy;
  • physical therapy;
  • vocational training;
  • counseling;
  • family support;
  • pain management; and
  • more.

Do you have concerns about how you and your family will pay for the care necessary to help your injured loved one? You may have rights to Accident Benefits or other compensation if brain injury resulted from a car accident or another’s negligence. Contact the Preszler Injury Lawyers to learn more – 1-800-JUSTICE®.


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