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What is the difference between an acquired brain injury and a traumatic brain injury?

What is the difference between an acquired brain injury and a traumatic brain injury?

An acquired brain injury (ABI) is an injury to the brain that is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma. Essentially, this type of brain injury is one that has occurred after birth. The injury results in a change to the brain’s neuronal activity, which affects the physical integrity, metabolic activity, or functional ability of nerve cells in the brain. An acquired brain injury is the umbrella term for all brain injuries.

There are two types of acquired brain injury: traumatic and non-traumatic.

Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force. Traumatic impact injuries can be defined as closed (or non-penetrating) or open (penetrating). Examples of a TBI include:

  • falls
  • assaults
  • motor vehicle accidents
  • sports injuries

Non-Traumatic Brain Injury

Often referred to as an acquired brain injury, a non-traumatic brain injury causes damage to the brain by internal factors, such as a lack of oxygen, exposure to toxins, pressure from a tumor, etc. Examples of NTBI include:

  • stroke
  • near-drowning
  • aneurysm
  • tumor
  • infectious disease that affects the brain (i.e., meningitis)
  • lack of oxygen supply to the brain (i.e., heart attack)

For more information about the difference between traumatic and non-traumatic brain injury, see the chart below:


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