Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) refers to damage to the brain that has occurred since birth and is not related to a degenerative or congenital condition. Causes of ABI include traumatic brain injury (TBI), stroke, infection, haemorrhage and tumour. Research indicates that in 2016-17, 531 UK hospital admissions per 100,000 population were due to ABI (Headway). There is evidence that most people admitted to hospital with an ABI survive and many do not experience any long term cognitive, physical or behavioural difficulties as a result of the ABI (Headway). However, over 40% of people admitted to hospital with an ABI experience impairments that result in long-term disability or life-long functional challenges (Corrigan et al., 2010; Jones et al., 2011).

Causes of traumatic brain injury include car/bicycle/motorbike accidents, falls, assault and accidents at home or work. Severity of injury varies and ranges from mild to severe. More severe injuries are associated with a longer period of being unconscious at the time of injury, greater functional impact – e.g. physical and/or cognitive impairment and a need for longer-term rehabilitation.

A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. Approximately 85% of strokes are Ischaemic – when a blood clot blocks an artery that carries blood to the brain. Haemorrhagic stroke occurs as a result of bleeding from a blood vessel. Every experience of stroke is different. People can experience a range of difficulties including physical changes (e.g. muscle weakness, swallowing difficulties, altered vision), cognitive changes (e.g. impaired attention, memory, planning) fatigue as well emotional changes (e.g. difficulty adjusting to stroke, anxiety, low mood/depression).

ABI results in a very sudden and often significant change to a person’s abilities and circumstances – that often take time and considerable effort for the people affected and their support network to adjust to.

A current focus of the APHF team is on the impact of acquired brain injury on the person themselves and their support network. We are carrying out a series of reviews on distress, coping and psychological adjustment following traumatic brain injury and stroke.