What Is an Acquired Brain Injury?

Through our work as Philadelphia brain injury lawyers, the legal team at Hill & Associates, P.C. has seen firsthand that traumatic brain injuries are some of the most significant wounds people can experience. Brain injuries often affect many aspects of life including cognition, problem-solving, speech, language, sensory processing, personality, sleep cycles, and how the body moves. Medical experts divide brain injuries into several categories, and it’s vital to understand the different types of brain injury. One of the most commonly heard terms concerning brain injuries is “acquired brain injury.” This term, according to the World Health Organization, applies to any damage to the brain that occurs after birth and is not an effect of a congenital or degenerative disease.

Any brain injury can pose significant long-term problems to victims. In many cases, an acquired brain injury impacts the individual’s earning capacity, personality, and daily life. Some of the main types of acquired brain injuries include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). TBIs are the most commonly seen brain injuries and affect at least 1.7 million people every year. Roughly 52,000 people die from TBIs each year as well. Any type of trauma to the head can cause a TBI, as the name suggests. The term “TBI” does not apply to brain injuries caused by sickness or disease. TBIs include concussions from collisions, blows to the head, and violent penetrating injuries like gunshots and stab wounds.
  • Brain infections. If a part of the body experiences an infection, it can spread through the bloodstream to the brain and damage brain tissue. Some common forms of brain infections include meningitis, which occurs in both a viral and a bacterial form, and encephalitis, which causes swelling of the brain tissue.
  • Even non-cancerous and benign tumors can cause problems in the brain. While surgery can sometimes remove the risk, brain surgery is itself a risk. Tumors caused by brain cancer require removal and some sort of chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
  • Strokes and “locked-in” syndrome. When a cardiovascular issue or episode cuts off blood flow to the brain, it causes a stroke. Strokes can sometimes cause what is called “locked-in syndrome,” a medical condition that involves a victim being fully conscious but unable to speak, move, or control bodily functions. In some cases, victims of locked-in syndrome can move their eyes or blink to communicate.
  • Oxygen loss. The brain needs oxygen to function. Hypoxia refers to limited oxygen flow, while anoxia refers to total oxygen deprivation. Brain damage can occur within minutes of losing oxygen flow to the brain. Oxygen loss is fatal at four to six minutes.
  • Surgical complications. In some cases, surgery to correct a brain problem such as a tumor or cancerous growth could lead to a serious brain injury including hemorrhages, strokes, or damaged brain tissue.
  • Over time, many forms of dementia like Alzheimer’s occur from plaques that develop on brain tissue that worsen over time. Some forms of dementia can interfere with speaking or processing language.

Any type of acquired brain injury demands immediate medical attention. While this may be obvious for victims of traumatic brain injuries, some acquired brain injuries may not manifest visible symptoms for quite some time. Additionally, genetic factors can leave some people more susceptible to acquired brain injuries than others. Ultimately, it’s best to seek a specialist’s opinion with any type of acquired brain injury.