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What is an ABI?

An acquired brain injury (ABI) is the result of damage to the brain by injury or illness. A blow to the head, disease, infection, lack of oxygen, penetration of the skull, violent shaking (e.g., Shaken Baby Syndrome, whiplash), and substance abuse can all cause an ABI.

The actual injury to the brain results when bruising, bleeding, swelling, fever, lack of blood or oxygen, shearing or tearing of cells, and/or increased pressure occurs.

Some possible symptoms and effects of an ABI include:

How Severe is the Injury?

There is no completely accurate way to predict how fully a person will recover from a brain injury. Often the injury will be diagnosed as mild/concussion, moderate or severe. This diagnosis helps to estimate the level of recovery.

For traumatic brain injuries, the assessment of severity is based on the survivor's ability to respond to others (as measured by the Glasgow Coma Scale), or to remember new information (as determined by post-traumatic amnesia).

An acquired brain injury can lead to either local or diffuse damage. Local damage is said to happen when only one area of the brain is affected. In this case, the survivor may only experience a few changes. Diffuse damage is when several areas of the brain have been affected. The survivor usually realizes many changes due to this more global damage. The severity and result of an ABI will vary depending on the amount and location of the brain damage. Symptoms/effects may be short term or long term, and may require life long support and monitoring.


Mild Brain Injury / Concussion

Mild brain injury (or concussion) is relatively common and typically occurs as a result of a blow to the head during sports, a motor vehicle collision, or a fall. People often report or present as being dazed, confused, experiencing amnesia, or knocked unconscious for a short period of time from their injury.  For more information, see our Concussion Information page. 



Acquired Brain Injury Partnership Project