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Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) refers to any damage to the
brain that occurs after birth. Causes include traumatic injury,
seizures, tumors, events where the brain has been deprived
of oxygen, infectious diseases, and toxic exposure such as
substance abuse.
Facts about ABI
  • More than 500,000 Ontarians and 1.5 million Canadians
       are living with acquired brain injury.
  • Every year another 160,000 Canadians experience an acquired brain injury. These rates continue to rise as more individuals are experiencing and reporting incidents of ABI.
  • There are more people impacted by acquired brain injuries than the combined numbers of people suffering from breast cancer, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis and HIV/AIDS. The effects also extend to those living with and caring for people with ABIs.
There are two types of Acquired Brain Injuries:
Non-Traumatic and Traumatic
Non-Traumatic Acquired Brain Injuries are caused by something that happens inside the body or a substance introduced into the body that damages brain tissues. 
Causes of Non-Traumatic Acquired Brain Injury include:
  • Ischemic stroke (stroke from a blocked blood vessel in the brain)

  • Hemorrhagic stroke (stroke from a burst blood vessel in the brain)

  • Aneurysm (a bulge in a blood vessel in the brain that may leak/rupture)

  • Seizure disorders

  • Brain tumour

  • Poisoning

  • Substance abuse

  • Opioid overdose (heroin, fentanyl, codeine, morphin, etc)

  • Meningitis

  • Encephalitis

  • Hydrocephalus (fluid accumulates in the brain)

  • Vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessel walls in the brain)

  • Hematoma (blood collecting on the surface of the brain)

Traumatic Acquired Brain Injuries are caused by something that comes from outside the body, such as a blow, bump, or jolt. It can result in temporary injury, or more serious, long-term damage to brain cells.


Causes of Traumatic Acquired Brain Injury include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents

  • Falls

  • Assault

  • Gunshot wounds

  • Domestic violence

  • Shaken baby syndrome

  • Sports injuries

  • Explosive blasts, combat injuries

Children may respond to a Traumatic Acquired Brain Injury differently than adults. Always take your child to the doctor if they’ve received any trauma to the head or body that you feel concerned about, or that causes changes in your child’s behavior, habits, or responses.

Impact of Acquired Brain Injuries

The effects of a traumatic acquired brain injury can begin to show immediately or increase over time. Each individual will experience a unique combination of challenges and changes


Physical Changes

  • Fatigue, difficulties with sleeping, insomnia

  • Challenged by activities like walking, sitting, moving from one location to another, bathing, and household tasks

  • Slurred sleep

  • Chronic pain, headaches

  • Seizures, fluid increase in the brain, infections, damaged blood vessels in the brain, vertigo (sensation of dizziness/spinning/loss of balance)

  • Sensory changes: ringing in the ears, trouble with hand-eye coordination, unpleasant tastes or smells, sensations on the skin like tingling, pain, or itching, difficulty with balance, dizziness


Cognitive Changes (Changes in thinking, learning, decision making)

  • Needing more time to understand information

  • Difficulty with making plans, organizing, or beginning tasks

  • Vision problems

  • Challenges with communicating: understanding conversations, finding the right word, speaking in proper sentences, understanding cues, making conversation

  • Difficulty writing

  • Can be distracted easily

  • Difficulty remembering things, learning, reasoning, judgment, and concentrating

  • Difficulty making decisions

  • Getting stuck on a single topic, idea, or activity either in conversation or actions (called perseveration)

  • Confusion about the current date, location, time of day

  • Changes to senses and perceptions: loss of sensation, loss/change of sense of smell or taste, loss of vision, double vision, hearing loss, difficulty swallowing, dizziness


Emotional Changes

  • Feeling irritable, having a ‘short fuse’

  • Depression, anxiety, anger

  • Prone to sudden, extreme emotions for no clear reason

  • Showing a limited emotional response to the terrible impacts of an acquired brain injury

  • Feeling like they have lost their identity, experiencing anxiety about further injuries to the brain


Behavioral Changes

  • Engaging in risky behavior, impulsive

  • Lack of a ‘filter’, saying things that are inappropriate

  • Isolating oneself

  • Difficulty with social and work relationships

  • Changing/inconsistent sleep patterns

  • Change in role – often from being independent to relying on others for care and support

  • Family breakdowns

Source: Brain Injury Canada 
Acquired Brain Injury Resources
Below you will find information on acquired brain injury and how it relates to recovery and rehabilitation in a variety of areas. Click on the links to learn more about each topic. 
       Brain Injured Student
       Following TBI
Recovery and Treatment 
Other Helpful Links

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