A traumatic brain injury is a sudden injury to the head causing damage to the brain. It can be a closed head injury or a penetrating one. It can affect one area of the brain or more than one area. When there is a penetration, the skull will be pierced and a piece of the bone from the skull may enter the brain tissue. With a closed head injury, there is no break in the skull. A skull fracture is when the skull cracks and broken pieces of bone cut into the brain.
The different types of traumatic brain injuries are:
- diffuse axonal injuries where damage occurs over a widespread area of the brain. It is a major cause of persistent vegetative state after head trauma
- coup injuries occur under the site of impact with an object. With a coup injury, on collision with an object the head stops and the brain collides with the inside of the skull
- contrecoup injuries usually occur on the opposite side from the area that has been impacted. Contrecoup injuries are a result of the shaken baby syndrome. It is usually associated with cerebral contusion
- contusions are bruising of the brain
- concussions are a jarring injury to the brain.
These types of injuries are generally caused by motor vehicle accidents, falls, sports injuries or physical violence. Most will result in cognitive disabilities and difficulties with physical and emotional functioning with contusions and concussions being possible exceptions.
Acquired brain injuries are acquired after birth and will change neuronal activity. They are caused by heart attacks, strokes, aneurysms, meningitis, loss of oxygen, neurosurgery, brain tumors, infections, poisoning, substance abuse, choking or near drownings. The most common cause of acquired brain injuries is a traumatic injury to the brain. It is not genetic or congenital and no one is born with an acquired head injury.
Acquired brain injuries will contribute to problems with cognitive abilities, thought coordination, communication difficulties, organizational skills and memory, physical problems, social difficulties and independent functioning.
Victims of ABI retain their intellectual abilities but because behavior and thinking can be altered, it may be necessary to make a life adjustment to accommodate their new circumstances. Adjustments are critical for recovery and rehabilitation.
Like traumatic brain injuries, for those who have suffered from an acquired brain injury, no two will be the same. Differences will depend on where the injury has been sustained, the areas affected, and upon the personality of the person both pre-injury and post-injury.
In both cases, attitude and effort will make a big difference in what a person will be able to accomplish when working towards recovery.