Introduction

This resource has been written for anyone with a relative, or other loved one, in hospital with a brain injury. It is aimed at helping families at this difficult and demanding time. 

Nothing can make the situation easy, but having some understanding of what is going on, what medical terms mean, who is involved and who can provide support, may make the experience less distressing.  The information here will answer some of your questions; help you to communicate clearly with the clinical team and signpost you to further sources of support as the situation progresses.

This resource is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to all aspects of brain injury, but it will provide you with a foundation on which to build.  At various points the resource will signpost you to more in-depth sources of information for those who want to know more.  Technical terms appear in bold type and definitions can be found in the glossary at the back.

Headway information and support

Headway - the brain injury association is a charity set up to give help and support to people affected by brain injury.  As well as a free phone Helpline (0808 800 2244) providing information and a listening ear, Headway also produces a range of booklets and factsheets on relevant issues.  Details of all Headway publications can be found in the ‘Sources of support’ section at the back of this resource. Further information on Headway and brain injury can be found on the website at www.headway.org.uk.  

A network of local Headway Groups and Branches throughout the UK offers a wide range of support.  The local group, Headway Lincolnshire has an Information & Support worker that can be contacted on 07546 592 526 or on headwaylincolnshire@headway.org.uk. The Information Support Worker can give various information on brain injury and its effects and can signpost to other organisations if appropriate.

What is brain injury?

Although protected by the skull, the brain can still be easily injured, even if there is no obvious external damage to the head.  An acquired brain injury (ABI) is any brain injury that has occurred since birth.  Types of ABI include stroke, haemorrhage, infection, tumour and traumatic brain injury (TBI), which is caused by a severe blow or jolt to the head, for example in a road traffic collision, fall or assault.

TBI usually leads to injury by a series of different events. Firstly, there is direct damage caused by the initial impact. Further injury can occur in the minutes and hours afterwards as a result of oxygen deprivation (hypoxia), brain swelling, bruising, bleeding, chemical changes and blood clots.