What is a brain injury?
An acquired brain injury is damage that occurs to the brain following an injury or illness. This damage may be caused either by a traumatic or non-traumatic injury to the brain.
The effects of a brain injury are usually seen through physical changes to the brain, observed on a CT/MRI scan or through symptoms or signs. These may include changes in consciousness, behaviour physical function and/or difficulties with thinking.
Common causes of brain injury in children in Australia include:
- Trauma related injuries such as motor vehicle and bike accidents, falls or sporting injuries
- Infections of the brain (Meningitis/encephalitis)
- Strokes (Cerebrovascular accidents)
- Hypoxia (lack of oxygen) from near-drowning accidents, cardiac (heart) causes and prolonged fits
- Inflicted injuries
A severe brain injury may result in changes to physical function, cognition (thinking), personality, behaviour and communication.
The short term effects include coma (being unconscious) or concussion (being drowsy and confused). In the longer term, physical problems may include weakness, poor balance or co-ordination, and fatigue. Cognitive changes may include reduced attention and concentration, difficulties with memory and new learning, difficulties with planning and organisation, changes in behaviour managing emotions and changes in communication.
The recovery can continue for months to several years following the injury and outcome is different for every child. Recovery is most rapid in the first weeks and months.
How do we help children who have had a brain injury?
We work with children and their families in hospital (inpatient) and in the community (school and home) as part of a rehabilitation program. Following an acquired brain injury, children will be reviewed in specialist clinics to monitor recovery and development and to determine the goals of the rehabilitation program. Services for children who have had a brain injury may also involve a range of different therapies (eg. occupational therapy, speech pathology, physiotherapy). The therapists aim to help children function to their greatest abilities in all life areas by providing treatment and support.