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The causes of brain injury include road accidents, strokes, neurological disease, respiratory failure and assault.

What is brain injury?

As the brain is involved in just about everything we do, injury to the brain can have a very wide range of effects. These effects vary from one person to another depending on the exact nature of the brain injury and its severity. It is helpful to distinguish between the initial effects when the person first sustained their brain injury and the longer-term effects.

How do you get a brain injury?

Brain injury is caused either by sustaining an injury to the head or by having an illness that causes brain injury. Brain injury can happen through road traffic accidents, assaults or falls (often called traumatic brain injuries) or by having an illness such as encephalitis, brain haemorrhages/strokes (also called cerebrovascular accidents CVA) or a brain tumour.

There are some differences in terms of likely risk depending on age and the mechanism of injury. For example, traumatic brain injuries tend to occur more in the very young, the very old and young men between 16-30. Strokes tend to occur more in the older adults. However, a brain injury can happen to any of us at any time.

How does brain injury affect people?

The effects will vary from one person to another, depending on the exact nature of the brain injury and its severity. They can include physical effects (eg on movement, vision, touch or taste), cognitive effects (eg on thinking processes such as memory and concentration) and effects on behaviour (eg self-control, motivation etc).

How is brain injury treated?

The treatment of brain injury occurs in a number of different stages and differs greatly from case to case due to differences in the severity and nature of the injury.

When an injury is a result of an accident the initial treatment may occur before the person reaches hospital. The paramedics at the scene of the accident and en route to the hospital will work to stabilise the persons condition and give immediate assistance. For other conditions such as encephalitis or a brain tumour the onset may be less obvious and the speed of intervention will depend on the progression of symptoms and the accuracy of the diagnosis.

Once a person reaches hospital the doctors will work rapidly to identify the immediate effects of the accident or illness and attempt to limit any further damage to the brain. Means of limiting further damage include prevention of swelling (oedema) by drugs, giving oxygen and draining blood or excess fluid. In extreme cases it may even involve surgery. More commonly surgery is used to repair damage to blood vessels or to the linings of the brain. As the persons medical condition stabilises the rehabilitation phase begins. In the early stages this may take place within the acute medical setting as the person may still requires considerable medical and nursing care. However, most rehabilitation takes place once the acute medical management is over and the person enters the phase known as post-acute rehabilitation. Here the person may be treated within a hospital setting and then discharged home or they may transfer to a specialist rehabilitation centre for further rehabilitation before plans are made for returning home or to other settings.






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