Following on last month’s article, we will continue focusing on the neurological aspect of things. Though in this article we will be looking into neurological injuries and more specifically at brain injuries.
Acquired Brain Injuries vs. Traumatic Brain Injuries
Brain injuries can be divided into 2 categories, namely: Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). An acquired brain injury is an injury that occurs after birth and is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative or induced by birth trauma. It occurs at cellular level and is most often associated with pressure on the brain. Whereas, traumatic brain injuries occur as a result of a mechanical external force to the brain, displacing the brain inside the skull and injuring it against the solid meningeal membrane, the dura, or against the inside of the neuro-cranium. Acceleration and deceleration forces may also result in the disruption of the nervous tissue and blood vessels of the brain.
Examples of ABI include:
- Stroke or aneurysm
- Near drowning or other incidences that results in a lack of oxygen to the brain (i.e. heart attack)
- Infectious disease that affects the brain (i.e. meningitis)
- Poisoning or exposure to toxic substances
Examples of TBI include:
- Motor Vehicle Accidents
- Sports Injuries
Symptoms of Brain Damage
Brain injuries can cause either focal or diffused brain damage. Focal brain damage suggests that it is confined to a small area of the brain, whereas diffuse brain damage involves several areas of the brain. Furthermore, it can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. A mild brain injury can be temporary, with symptoms such as headaches, confusion, memory problems and nausea. In more moderate cases these symptoms can be pronounced and last for longer. Fortunately, in these situations most people make a good recovery with only 15% of people having problems after 1 year. Unfortunately, for persons who sustain severe brain damage, cognitive, behavioural and physical disabilities may be permanent.
Traumatic brain injuries are the leading cause of death and disability in children and young adults around the world and is involved in nearly half of all trauma deaths. Looking at acquired brain injuries, stroke alone affect 1 in 6 people worldwide and is the second leading cause of death for people above the age of 60, and the fifth leading cause in people aged 15 to 59.
Rehabilitation for Brain Injuries
Brain injuries do not necessarily result in long-term disability or impairment and almost all patients will benefit from rehabilitative programs. Rehabilitation may include (but not limited to):
- Physical therapy (Biokinetics and Physiotherapy)
- Occupation therapy
- Speech and language therapy
- Music therapy
- Psychological support
With every injury being unique, it is hard to say for how long the person may need rehabilitation. All that is certain is that recovery is a slow, long process and can take months or years. During the rehabilitative process the greatest visible progress will occur in the first 6 months after the injury occurred. Improvement is often less obvious after this period. Though, good recovery is generally still expected during the ‘window’ period, which is for the first 24 months after the injury occurred. Thereafter, progress and improvements are generally slow, but it does not mean that recovery ceases to take place. It is therefore recommended that rehabilitation commence as soon as possible to guarantee the best recovery outcome.
World Stroke Organisation. 2019. Facts and Figures of Stroke. Available at: https://www.world-stroke.org/component/content/article/16-forpatients/84-facts-and-figures-about-stroke. [Accessed 08/10/2019].
Web MD. 2005 – 2019. Brain Damage: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/brain/brain-damage-symptoms-causes-treatments#1. [Accessed 08/10/2019].
Neurological Disorders, Public Health Challenges. Available at: https://www.who.int/mental_health/neurology/neurological_disorders_report_web.pdf. [Accessed 08/10/2019].
Brain Injury Association of America. 2019. What is the difference between an acquired brain injury and a traumatic brain injury? Available at: https://www.biausa.org/brain-injury/about-brain-injury/nbiic/what-is-the-difference-between-an-acquired-brain-injury-and-a-traumatic-brain-injury. [Accessed 08/210/2019]. Headway, the brain injury association. 2019. Rehabilitation after brain injury. Available at: https://www.headway.org.uk/about-brain-injury/individuals/rehabilitation-and-continuing-care/rehabilitation/