ABI Manual

The Acquired Brain Injury Handbook

An acquired brain injury, or ABI, is damage to the brain that was not present at birth and is non-progressive. The two categories of ABI are NON-TRAUMATIC and TRAUMATIC brain injuries:


Non-traumatic brain injuries are the result of non-violent causes. Some of the more common sources of non-traumatic brain injuries are:
1. Stroke: Also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or a “brain attack”, a stroke is the disruption of blood flow to the brain.
2. Brain Aneurysm: Also known as a cerebral or intracranial aneurysm. An aneurysm is an abnormal bulging of the arteries in the brain. Should the aneurysm rupture, damage to the brain may occur.
3. Brain Tumors: Damage to the brain may be caused by the tumor itself or the treatment of it through chemotherapy or radiation.
4. Hypoxia: A reduction or inadequate flow of oxygen to the brain. Causes may include heart attack or near drowning.
5. Anoxia: A total lack of oxygen to the brain. Causes may include heart attack or near drowning.
6. Toxic or Metabolic Injury: Injury resulting fro exposure to toxic substances such as chemicals or high doses of lead. Kidney failure can also result in the buildup of harmful toxins in the brain.
7. Infection: Bacterial or viral infections may cause:
- Encephalitis – inflammation or swelling of the brain.
- Meningitis – inflammation or swelling of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
8 Alcohol and Drug Abuse


1. Road traffic accidents
2. Assaults
3. Penetrating or open head injuries
4. Falls
5. Sports injuries, concussions
6. Brain injuries that are present at birth (congenital brain injury) and brain conditions that are degenerative, such as dementia, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, are not classified as acquired brain injuries.

Some forms of acquired brain injury, such as stroke or tumour, tend to cause localised damage to the brain. Others, such as hypoxia and meningitis, usually cause widespread brain damage.

The impact of acquired brain injury can vary dramatically from person to person and the part of the brain effected.