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Difference Between an Acquired Brain Injury and a Traumatic Brain Injury


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    Acquired Brain Injury and a Traumatic Brain Injury

    Nearly 1.7 million people withstand a traumatic brain injury (TBI) every year in America. While most people who experience a brain injury are able to resume their daily activities, more than 125,000 people each year are considered permanently disabled as a result of their traumatic brain injury.
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Injury Prevention, the leading causes of TBI are:

    • Falls (35.2%)
    • Motor vehicle-traffic crashes (17.3%)
    • Struck by/against events (16.5%)
    • Assaults (10%)

    The Brain Injury Network states, “There is a conflict with regard to the definitions of TBI and ABI and this is causing confusion within our brain injury survivor community.” They are calling for a consistent definition of terms across all medical, legal, and other forms of communication.
    Let’s examine the definitions for each:

    Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

    An acquired brain injury is an injury to the brain that has occurred after birth but is not related to hereditary, congenital, or degenerative disease. An ABI injury includes all types of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and also brain injuries caused after birth by cerebral vascular accidents and loss of oxygen to the brain, including hypoxia, illness, infection, stroke, substance abuse, toxic exposure, and tumor.

    ABI may cause temporary or permanent damage in cognitive, emotional, metabolic, motor, perceptual-motor, and/or sensory brain function areas.

    Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

    Common causes of a traumatic brain injury include penetrating head injuries and closed head injuries. Penetrating head injuries occur when an object, like a bullet or shrapnel, enters the brain and causes damage in a specific area. Closed head injuries occur when there’s a blow to the head during motor vehicle crashes, assaults, falling and striking your head, or injuries acquired during sporting events or under other circumstances.

    The Brain Be Happy website, agrees with the Brain Injury Networks with their own definition of traumatic brain injury (TBI):

    A traumatic brain injury is an injury to the brain caused by an external force after birth that is indicated by new onset or worsening of at least one of the following clinical signs, immediately following the event:

    • Any period of loss of or a decreased level of consciousness;
    • Any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the injury;
    • Any change in mental state at the time of the injury (confusion, disorientation, slowed thinking, etc.);
    • Neurological deficits (weakness, loss of balance, change in vision, praxis, paresis/plegia, sensory loss, aphasia, etc.) that may or may not be transient;
    • Intracranial lesion.

    External forces may include any of the following events:

    the head being struck by an object, the head striking an object, the brain undergoing an acceleration/deceleration movement without direct external trauma to the head, a foreign body penetrating the brain, forces generated from events such as a blast or explosion, or other force yet to be defined.

    Note: Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases are not considered a traumatic or acquired brain injury.

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