Acquired Brain Injury
An acquired brain injury is defined by the Brain Injury Network as any brain injury acquired after birth to include traumatic brain injuries, strokes and brain illnesses. It does not include what are classified as degenerative brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
It is also defined by Headway, The Brain Injury association as follows: “acquired brain injury covers all situations in which brain injury has occurred since birth, and includes traumatic brain injury as well as tumour, stroke, brain haemorrhage and encephalitis, to name a few.
The common theme between all definitions is that it must be an injury acquired since birth
An acquired brain injury can be caused by many different events occurring in the brain eg:
- An aneurysm – Where the wall of an artery or blood vessel is weakened, it may swell in a blister-like shape and form what is known as an aneurysm. As aneurysms grow, symptoms can occur as they put pressure on the surrounding tissue. Sometimes, however, no symptoms will occur. An aneurysm can rupture at any time, causing serious bleeding into the surrounding tissue and damaging the brain. This is called a haemorrhage or haemorrhagic stroke.
- Brain haemorrhage – there are 4 types of haemorrhage named according to where the bleeding occurs. These are subdural haemorrhage; extradural haemorrhage; subarachnoid haemorrhage and intracerebral haemorrhage. Subdural and extradural haemorrhages are the most common types after THBI and can be a cause of further brain damage that can lead to more long term effects.
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is an injury to the brain caused by a trauma to the head (head injury). There are many possible causes, including road traffic accidents, assaults, falls and accidents at home or at work.
- A brain tumour is an abnormal mass of tissue inside the skull, which is caused by cells dividing at an increased speed. There are two types of brain tumour: malignantand benign. Malignant, or cancerous, tumours often invade surrounding tissue and can spread to other parts of the body through the blood stream or lymphatic system. They can also erode ‘healthy’ tissue, as the cells that make up a malignant tumour share very little in common with the healthy cells that surround them. Because malignant tumours often grow and spread rapidly, early diagnosis can increase the chances of survival. If caught early, they will have had less chance to destroy healthy brain tissue, and are less likely to have spread to other parts of the body. Sometimes, brain tumours are the result of other malignant tumours in other parts of the body that have spread to the brain – these are known as ‘metastases’, or ‘secondary tumours’. These are always malignant. Benign, or non-cancerous, tumours tend to grow more slowly and do not spread, although people can have more than one benign tumour. A benign brain tumour can put pressure on the brain as it grows inside the enclosed space of the skull, and this may compress and damage healthy tissue.
- Encephalitis – inflammation of the brain, most often caused by infections. In the UK, the cause in over 50% of cases is unknown, despite extensive testing. Where the cause is identified, it is most likely to be the Herpes-Simplex virus, but there are a number of other viruses or bacteria that can cause encephalitis. Encephalitis resulting from Herpes-Simplex virus can be treated quite effectively with an anti-viral drug, but early diagnosis is important to reduce the long-term damage. At present, there are few effective treatments for encephalitis causes by different viruses, and care mainly focuses on support and symptom management. In many cases, people will make a good recovery from encephalitis, but nerve cells in the brain may be damaged. This can lead to long-term effects, which are sometimes severe.
- Hydrocephalus is caused by a build-up of fluid inside the skull, which can increase pressure and cause damage to the brain. The brain and spine are surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which is essential for cushioning the brain, providing nutrients and removing waste products. CSF is mainly produced in the choroid plexus and flows around the sub-arachnoid space surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It then passes through a series of chambers in the brain called ventricles and connecting channels called foramina. We produce about a pint (500ml) of CSF per day but the brain can contain only about 120-150ml. For this reason excess CSF is drained into the bloodstream through a series of valves called the arachnoid villi. The CSF is recycled about three times a day. Hydrocephalus can occur if the flow of CSF is blocked, if the body produces too much CSF, or if there is a problem with the arachnoid villi which stops CSF being absorbed into the blood. This can cause the ventricles and sub-arachnoid space to swell as the fluid pressure increases, which may lead to permanent brain injury if prompt treatment is not received.
But, whatever the cause of your brain injury, at Headway Blackpool Wyre & Fylde we are here to help by offering you support, guidance and the time to adjust to start adapting to life going forward.