About Brain Injury

At Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia, we understand how profoundly a brain injury can affect you and your family. In an instant, life can change forever. A brain injury can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) refers to any damage to the brain that occurs after birth and is not related to a congenital or a degenerative disease.

Causes include traumatic injury, seizures, tumors, events where the brain is deprived of oxygen, infectious diseases, and toxic exposure such as substance abuse.

Millions of Canadians live with the effects of Acquired Brain Injury. There are an estimated 2,700-3,000 new brain injuries every year in Nova Scotia alone. Brain injury affects up to 70,000 Nova Scotians — it is the leading killer and disabler of people under 44.

There are more people impacted by acquired brain injuries than the combined numbers of people who have breast cancer, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS. The effects also extend to those living with and caring for people with ABIs.

Living in Nova Scotia presents an even greater challenge for brain injury survivors and their families. Though things are improving, there are few appropriate publicly-funded services and supports specific to brain injury in Nova Scotia — particularly if you live outside Halifax.

We urge you to become a member of Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia. We want to hear from you.

There is strength in numbers, and we will do our very best to keep you connected, offer service navigation support, and continue to expand our education and peer support networks to communities across Nova Scotia. You are not alone.

Brains... All we are.

There are 2 types of Acquired Brain Injuries: Non-Traumatic and Traumatic

Non-Traumatic Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

Non-Traumatic Acquired Brain Injuries are caused by something that happens inside the body or a substance introduced into the body that damages brain tissues. They include:

  • Ischemic stroke (stroke from a blocked blood vessel in the brain)
  • Hemorrhagic stroke (stroke from a burst blood vessel in the brain)
  • Aneurysm (a bulge in a blood vessel in the brain that may leak/rupture)
  • Seizure disorders
  • Brain tumour
  • Poisoning
  • Substance abuse
  • Opioid overdose (heroin, fentanyl, codeine, morphine)
  • Meningitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Hydrocephalus (fluid accumulates in the brain)
  • Vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessel walls in the brain)
  • Hematoma (blood collecting on the surface of the brain)

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Traumatic Acquired Brain Injuries are caused by something that comes from outside the body, such as a blow, bump, or jolt. It can result in temporary injury or more serious, long-term damage to brain cells. They include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Falls
  • Assault
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Domestic violence (assault, strangulation, suffocation)
  • Shaken baby syndrome
  • Sports injuries
  • Explosive blasts, combat injuries

Impact of Acquired Brain Injuries

The effects of an acquired brain injury can begin to show immediately or increase/decrease over time. Each individual will experience a unique combination of challenges and changes.

Physical Changes

  • Fatigue, difficulties with sleeping, insomnia
  • Challenges with walking, sitting, moving from one location to another, bathing, and household tasks
  • Slurred speech
  • Chronic pain, headaches
  • Changes in vision
  • Seizures, fluid increase in the brain, infections, damaged blood vessels in the brain, vertigo (sensation of dizziness/spinning/loss of balance)
  • Sensory changes: ringing in the ears, trouble with hand-eye coordination, unpleasant tastes or smells, sensations on the skin like tingling, pain, or itching, difficulty with balance, dizziness

Behavioral Changes

  • Engaging in risky behavior, impulsive
  • Lack of a “filter,” saying things that are inappropriate
  • Isolating oneself
  • Difficulty with social and work relationships
  • Changing/inconsistent sleep patterns
  • Change in role, often from being independent to relying on others for care and support
  • Family breakdowns

Cognitive Changes

(Changes in thinking, learning, decision making)

  • Needing more time to understand information
  • Difficulty with making plans, organizing, or beginning tasks
  • Vision problems
  • Challenges with communication: understanding conversations, finding the right word, speaking in proper sentences, understanding cues, making conversation
  • Difficulty writing
  • Difficulty with concentrations, distracted easily
  • Difficulty remembering things, learning, reasoning and judgment
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Getting stuck on a single topic, idea, or activity either in conversation or actions (called perseveration)
  • Confusion about the current date, location, time of day
  • Loss/changes to senses and perceptions: sensation, sense of smell or taste, vision, double vision, hearing

Emotional Changes

  • Feeling irritable, having a “short fuse”
  • Depression, anxiety, anger
  • Prone to sudden, extreme emotions for no clear reason
  • Showing a limited emotional response to situations
  • Feeling like they have lost their identity, experiencing anxiety about further injuries to the brain

Concussion is also an acquired brain injury.