An acquired brain injury is not one that your child is born with or that happens during birth. Instead, acquired brain injuries happen after birth. They are caused by head trauma, like a car accident, or a medical condition such as an infection.
Children and teens who have a moderate-to-severe brain injuries often are affected physically, emotionally, and/or in the way they think. The physical, emotional and thinking changes that happen with a brain injury can be mild or very severe.
Acquired brain injuries cause many different kinds of symptoms. Your child might be affected physically, cognitively (thinking), behaviorally, and emotionally. Your child’s sleep patterns might also be affected.
Physical symptoms of acquired brain injury can include:
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Difficulty with balance and coordination
- Hearing or visual changes or problems
- Changes in muscle tone
- Difficulty swallowing and chewing
- Difficulty talking and communicating
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Tiring easily
- Slurred speech
Cognitive (thinking) symptoms can include:
- Decreased attention and alertness
- Not knowing where, when, or who they are
- Less able to concentrate and focus on an activity
- Difficulty learning something new
- Less ability to reason and make good decisions
- Problems understanding how one’s actions affect others
Emotional and behavioral symptoms can include:
- Getting stuck on an idea, word, or request
- Easily frustrated, low tolerance level
- Aggressiveness or violent behavior
- Personality changes
- Thoughts of suicide
- Mood swings
- Laughing or crying at the wrong times
Changes in sleep patterns can include:
- Sleeping more than usual
- Drowsiness or tiring easily with daily routine
- Trouble falling asleep
- Trouble staying asleep
If your child has a head injury or an illness that could affect their brain, watch for the following signs:
- Confused speech
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty with balance
- Changes in pupil size or ringing in the ears
Acquired brain injuries can be caused by trauma to the head, such as from a fall, a sports injury, or a car accident.Brain injuries can also be caused by certain medical conditions, such as infections like meningitis, brain tumors, strokes, poisoning, and lack of oxygen in the brain because of a heart attack or near drowning.
Imaging tests of your child’s brain may be needed to diagnose an acquired brain injury. This could include x-ray pictures or computed tomography (CT) scans of their head. These tests let your child’s doctor see the area of the brain that is injured.Your child might also have an electroencephalogram [ih-lek-troh-en-sef-uh-luh-gram], often called an EEG. This test shows the electrical activity in your child’s brain and helps doctors understand how your child’s brain is working.
Imaging tests of your child’s brain may be needed to diagnose an acquired brain injury. This could include x-ray pictures or computed tomography (CT) scans of their head. These tests let your child’s doctor see the area of the brain that is injured.
Your child might also have an electroencephalogram [ih-lek-troh-en-sef-uh-luh-gram], often called an EEG. This test shows the electrical activity in your child’s brain and helps doctors understand how your child’s brain is working.
It is not always possible to prevent acquired brain injuries, but you can protect your child and yourself by:
- Wearing seat belts and obeying traffic laws
- Using protective equipment while playing sports
- Being careful to avoid falls
Acquired brain injuries happen after birth and are caused by trauma to the head or medical conditions such as infections or tumors. Symptoms can range from very mild to severe and include physical as well as emotional and thinking problems. Brain imaging tests and electroencephalography are used for diagnosis. Treatment might include physical therapy, speech therapy, and other approaches.