Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Acquired brain injury (ABI)

3-minute read

An acquired brain injury (ABI) is the result of damage to your brain that may occur at any time during your life. An ABI can cause many different problems for the person affected. It is different from an intellectual disability or a mental illness.

Causes of acquired brain injury

The term 'acquired brain injury' covers many different situations rather than just one disease or condition, and it may occur in many different ways. An ABI can be caused by:

Symptoms of acquired brain injury

ABI can affect people in many different ways. Some people have physical effects, including:

  • weakness, shaking, stiffness or poor balance
  • tiredness
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • seizures or fits
  • headaches
  • changes in vision or smell or touch.

Some people experience changes in their thinking or learning abilities, including:

  • problems with memory
  • problems with concentration or attention
  • difficulty with planning or organisation
  • confusion
  • difficulty with communication or having a conversation.

Some people have problems with managing their behaviour or emotions, including:

You can talk to your doctor if any of these problems affect you or someone you know. If there is an emergency, call triple zero (000).

Tests for acquired brain injury

People with an ABI will often have a brain scan of some kind. But depending on the cause of the ABI, there might be other tests that can be done as well.

Testing of the person's memory, thinking and how well they manage everyday tasks will need to be done. These tests examine what kinds of problems they are having, and what kind of support they will need if they are to improve.

Treatment for acquired brain injury

To some extent, the treatment will depend on what has caused the ABI. So, for example, someone with a stroke needs treatment specifically designed for their stroke.

But people with an ABI will also need treatment depending on what kinds of problems their condition is causing them. It is likely to involve rehabilitation that will focus on the areas the person affected is having difficulty with.

Rehabilitation takes time. Although the biggest improvements usually come in the first few months after an injury, recovery can continue for years afterwards. Some people have to learn to live with some of the effects of an ABI on a more permanent basis.

Caring for a person with an ABI, and living with an ABI

It can be frustrating and challenging to have an ABI. Caring for someone with an ABI may also be challenging. However, there are organisations that can offer support and information, including the Brain Foundation, Brain Injury Australia and Synapse. Your doctor may also be able to help you get more support.

Last reviewed: July 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Acquired brain injury in children | Raising Children Network

An acquired brain injury (ABI) is any damage to the brain that happens after birth. Read about ABI causes, features and support, especially in children.

Read more on website

BrainLink | ABI Information Kit

The Acquired Brain Injury information kit was produced by a joint committee of brain injury organisations with the support and assistance of the Department of Human Services Victoria

Read more on BrainLink website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Acquired brain injury - children

An acquired brain injury refers to any damage to the brain that occurs after birth

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Acquired brain injury | Cerebral Palsy Alliance

An acquired brain injury can have a lasting impact on a persons ability to move, communicate, think and remember, and can affect their life, work and relationships.

Read more on Cerebral Palsy Alliance website

BrainLink | Programs and Events for People with ABI/ABD

The BrainLink Group is a recreational group for people impacted by acquired brain injury or disorder

Read more on BrainLink website

Brain Foundation | Acquired Brain Injury

Acquired Brain Injury Acquired Brain Injury (Brain Injury, Head Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury, TBI) Description Brain injury includes a complex group of medical and surgical problems that are caused by trauma to the head

Read more on Brain Foundation website

Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) is a form of non-accidental brain injury

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

BrainLink | BrainLink - Flexible Respite Opportunities

Eastern Region ABI Flexible Respite service is administered by BrainLink on behalf of the Department of Human Services (Eastern Metropolitan Region) and provides funding for services to enhance the quality of life of a person with an Acquired Brain Injury, and of their carers'/families'

Read more on BrainLink website

Thinking and Perception | enableme - stroke recovery and support

Stroke can affect how you think, remember and perceive things. Find resources, tips and techniques to aid your recovery

Read more on Stroke Foundation website

Concussion -

Concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that results in sudden onset of neurological symptoms that resolve spontaneously over a varying period of time.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo