Learn About Brain Injury

Brain injuries can stem from a wide variety of causes. While the sources and causes of brain injuries may be diverse, most brain injuries can be categorized in two primary types.

The Two Primary Types of Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI.

The severity of such an injury may range from mild (i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness) to severe (i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury). A TBI can result in short- or long-term problems with independent function.

Non-Traumatic Brain Injury

A non-traumatic brain injury can be the result of an illness, oxygen deprivation, metabolic disorders, aneurysms, cardiac arrest, near-drowning experience, etc. In short, it includes injuries to the brain that are not caused by an external physical force to the head. Other nonviolent circumstances, such as tumors and lead poisoning, can also injure the brain.

Although the effects of a non-traumatic brain Injury are comparable to those associated with a traumatic brain injury, there are some key differences, namely that they are not caused by an impact to the head. Non-traumatic brain injury also has a direct impact on cells throughout the brain. Because it attacks the cellular structure, a non-traumatic brain injury has the ability to spread to all areas of the brain, while TBI only affects concentrated areas.

The most common instances of non-traumatic brain injury include:

  • Anoxic injury: The brain receives inadequate levels of oxygen, usually following cardiac arrest when there is minimal to no blood reaching the brain.
  • Toxic or metabolic injury: This occurs after coming into contact with unsafe substances (e.g., lead) or the detrimental accumulation of chemicals manufactured within the body (e.g., kidney failure).
  • Encephalitis: This is caused by an infection of the brain.
  • Virus: This is the most common cause of non-traumatic brain injury.
  • Brain tumors: Chemotherapy and radiation can be used to diffuse this type of brain injury.
  • Meningitis
  • Stroke
  • Drug abuse
  • Hydrocephalus

Brain Injury Resources

Visit MyShepherdConnection.org to access brain injury-related educational materials for patients, families and caregivers, including:

Additional Resources: