Acquired Brain Injury

Susan HWG

What is acquired brain injury?

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) can happen to anyone in an instant and change their life forever. It can happen as a result of a road traffic accident, an assault, a fall, an infection or a spontaneous bleed in the brain. The effects can be devastating. ABI can affect people’s physical abilities like their walking and their vision; their cognitive abilities like their memory and thinking; and their emotions leading to depression and anger.

“…it affects our whole family”

The outcome of this can affect every aspect of the person’s life from their relationships to their work.

Acquired brain injury (ABI) means a non-progressive brain injury which someone is not born with.

The causes can include:

  • head injury – particularly through falls, assaults and road traffic accidents
  • blood clot
  • aneurysm
  • brain haemorrhage
  • hydrocephalus
  • meningitis
  • encephalitis
  • brain tumour
  • skull fracture
  • stroke
  • oxygen starvation
  • drug overdose

…….   and many more.

Does it affect many people?

Glasgow has a significant problem with acquired brain injury. Over 3000 people per year go to hospital in Glasgow having had a brain injury, the main causes of these are falls and assaults. Studies show that up to half of these people may still be experiencing problems after a year has passed. ABI is the biggest cause of acquired disability in the working age population.

Common problems after ABI

Your brain controls almost every function in your body. Everyone’s brain is slightly different to begin with and every person’s skills, experience and memories are unique. Each brain injury can happen in a different way and the recovery that people go through is specific to that person.

This means that the effects of a brain injury can be very different from person to person. However there are some common problems which include:

Problems with thinking like:

  • memory problems
  • difficulties with attention and concentration
  • taking longer to think or carry out tasks
  • problems planning and carrying out plans
  • impulsiveness and not thinking things through

Problems with emotions like:

  • feeling depressed, tearful or anxious
  • being irritable or easily angered
  • problems with personal relationships
  • difficulties communicating with others
  • loss of confidence and self esteem

Physical problems like:

  • paralysis or a weakness on one side of the body, the hand or leg
  • hearing problems
  • visual problems
  • unco-ordinated actions or clumsiness
  • epilepsy
  • pain and headaches
  • fatigue and tiredness

“…I don’t see anybody unless I come here”

These difficulties can lead to problems in work, relationships, in everyday life and in interaction with other people. People can become socially isolated and may rely more on alcohol or other drugs. The fact that someone has a brain injury is often not obvious to other people, . . . . .

. . . . . it is a “hidden disability“.

and some sources of information

In 2014 Headway Glasgow produced a Directory of Brain Injury Services for people with a brain injury. This lists inpatient services for people with brain injury, community services, and general services that people may find helpful.  Please note that as time goes on some entries may be out of date. The whole document will be updated in due course but if you note any errors please contact us about this.

There are many sources of information about brain injury.  While we all must rely on specialists for their professional advice, it can be helpful to read about the subject for ourselves.  We have a number of booklets in our office that you may find useful and we can direct you to many other sources of information.

Headway UK’s website at gives an authoritative description of the various types of brain injury, their causes and the effects that these can have on the injured person.

This study: Thornhill et al 2000 gives information about the scale of the problem of acquired brain injury in Glasgow.

Here are some organisations and their websites that may be useful:

  • The Scottish Acquired Brain Injury Network is a NHS organisation set up to share information in Scotland about ABI…

  • Scottish Head Injury Forum…


  • Active Care Group (Murdostoun Brain Injury Rehabilitation Centre)

  • The Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust…

  • Community Treatment Centre for Brain Injury (NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde)…

  • Child Brain Injury Trust…
  • Epilepsy Scotland…
  • Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland…
  • The Brain Tumour Charity…

  • The Encephalitis Society…

  • Meningitis Now…

  • Hydrocephalus Scotland…

  • West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership

Please note that Headway Glasgow is not responsible for the content of external websites, and we always advise people that each brain, each brain injury and each recovery is different – for the best advice you should speak to your specialist.

If you prefer to read a book about brain injury and its effects there are a lot on the market. The ones we often recommend to people are: Head Injury: A Practical Guide by Trevor Powell, and Head Injury (The Facts Series) by Audrey Daisley. Although these books are specifically written in terms of Head Injury the information contained usually applies well to other forms of brain injury.