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What is an acquired brain injury?

Most often when one sees or hears the term "brain injury" it is used in connection with traumatic brain injuries. As the name suggests, these kinds of brain injuries are the result of some physical impact affecting the brain. This can be the result of an external force, such an an object piercing the skull and striking the brain, or more often the result of the brain being subject to forces within the cranium, such as bruising, or a concussion that might follow a fall or a car accident.

Occasionally, though, another term is used to describe brain injuries: "acquired brain injury." This leads to the question of whether, or how an acquired brain injury is different from a traumatic brain injury.

The answer to this question has been the subject of some debate, depending on the authority one refers to. But in general, an acquired brain injury is one that occurs after birth and which is not the result of a degenerative or congenital disease. This definition is broad enough that many authorities consider traumatic brain injury to be a subspecies of acquired brain injuries, the trauma simply being the way in which the injury was acquired.

Acquired brain injuries can include causes other than physical trauma. These non-traumatic origins include:

  • strokes
  • tumors
  • infections
  • toxic exposures
  • oxygen deprivation
  • bleeding

Some of these causes may lend themselves to consideration of whether the underlying cause was itself the result of an external act, including the negligent act of another person, such as a health care professional. For example, a mistake made during surgery can lead to bleeding of the brain, or a lack of oxygen to the brain; unsanitary conditions in an operation environment may conceivably contribute to an infection.

Any instance of an acquired brain injury, traumatic or otherwise, that is traceable to the fault of another is potentially actionable at law. This post cannot cover all the legal causation possibilities, but a personal injury law firm the practice of which includes brain injury cases can assist in assessing whether a cause of action exists and to help pursue it.

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