A brain injury is an alteration in brain function caused by an external force. Most brain injuries are considered “acquired” brain injuries. These injuries aren’t congenital, hereditary, degenerative or caused by birth trauma. In other words, they occur after birth.

But what causes an acquired brain injury?

The Causes of an Acquired Brain Injury

In addition to the causes of brain injuries, we will discuss what to do after an injury occurs. First, let’s look at the most common causes and possible prevention.


A stroke occurs when there is a reduction or interruption to blood supply in the brain. This happens for two main reasons: a blocked artery or an aneurysm.

When a blocked artery causes a stroke, it’s often called an ischemic stroke. These account for 80% of all strokes. When an ischemic stroke occurs, brain tissues don’t receive enough oxygen. As a result, cells die or sustain damage.

An aneurysm is a weakened artery wall that worsens over time. When a weak spot bursts, blood flows out around the tissues and forms a blood clot. An aneurysm can can occur nearly anywhere in the body, but when the brain is involved it can cause a stroke.

People typically associate strokes with the elderly, but this is increasingly not true. Childbirth, drugs and other causes are trending in much younger populations.


Traumatic injuries cause damage to the structure and function of the brain. Force can crush the skull, or a hard object can penetrate the brain or skull or cause a skull fracture.

Skull fractures can either be open or closed, with an open skull fracture exposing the brain. Closed skull fractures are the most common type of brain injury and may involve concussion, bruising or intracranial hemorrhage, bleeding inside the skull that can cause pressure on the brain.


Infection that spreads to the brain can cause damage to brain cells.

There are two main types of brain infections: encephalitis (severe brain infection) and meningitis (infection of the brain membranes). Various viruses can cause encephalitis, such as herpes viruses, mosquito and tick-borne viruses, enteroviruses and rabies.

It is rare for infections to lead to encephalitis. Symptoms may include seizures, confusion, muscle weakness, loss of sensation, low consciousness, and problems with speech.

Meningitis may also be caused by various bacteria and viruses such as meningococcal bacteria, influenza type B bacteria, pneumococcal bacteria, mumps, and enteroviruses.

Meningitis is more common than encephalitis and is not always serious. However, it’s still important to seek treatment. Symptoms of meningitis include stiff neck, high fever, severe headaches, seizures, confusion, sensitivity to light, and sleepiness.


Anoxia involves a lack of oxygen supply to the brain. If the brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen, cell damage can occur in as little as three minutes. Anoxia typically occurs during extreme circumstances such as drowning, cardiac and respiratory arrest, and excessive bleeding.

Brain Tumor

Vestibular schwannoma, meningioma, and pituitary adenoma are all forms of tumors that can cause injury to the brain. While benign or malignant tumors in the brain cavity grow, they cause injury by compressing the tissue. Malignant tumors are more likely to cause injury because cancer spreads and biologically affects the function of the brain.

How Do I Know If I Have a Brain Injury?

It’s not always easy to identify an acquired brain injury. Regardless of the severity, every brain injury is serious. It is important to know the most common symptoms of brain injury and receive medical evaluation—or emergency care:

  • tiredness
  • weakness
  • seizures
  • sleep changes
  • changes in vision
  • headaches
  • concentration problems
  • amnesia
  • confusion
  • difficulty performing basic functions
  • mood swings
  • difficulty communicating
  • personality changes
  • irritability

What to Do After a Brain Injury?

Treatment depends on the type of injury and its severity. Most people will require some form of rehabilitation.

The goal of brain injury rehabilitation is for the patient to regain the high degree of independence and quality of life. Treatment can be inpatient or outpatient. Depending on the severity of the injury, brain injury rehab can last anywhere from a few months to several years.

Do You Need Rehabilitation for an Acquired Brain Injury?

The benefits of accessing intense rehabilitation as early on after injury is possible is well-documented. While every situation and every injury is different, a comprehensive rehabilitation program can improve outcomes and help your loved one return to a life they enjoy. For more information, contact us at 402-573-3748.

Categories: Brain Injury