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What is an acquired brain injury?

Acquired Brain Injury

TYPE 1
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

  • Fall
  • Road Traffic Accident
  • Sporting Head Injury

TYPE 2
Non Traumatic Brain Injury (NTBI)

  • Stroke
  • Brain Tumour
  • Encephalitis
  • Meningitis
  • Drowning

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

Road traffic accidents are the most common cause of ABI in older children and adolescents, whilst falls, being dropped or non-accidental injuries are more common in younger children and infants. (Ref: West, J; Cerebra; 2010)

“The NHS’s Draft Service Specification for Paediatric Neuro-rehabilitation, published in December 2012, estimated that around 40,000 children in the UK suffer a brain injury each Year”  This is the most comprehensive estimate from an official source for some time.

The document states : the incidence of hospitalisation for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in England has been reported as ranging from 280-500 per 100,000 children aged under 16. This equation implies that the total number of children admitted to hospital for TBI per annum in the UK is at least 35,000.

Of these, approximately:

  • 2,000 will have sustained severe traumatic brain injury
  • 3,000 moderate traumatic brain injury and
  • 30,000 mild traumatic brain injury

(Middleton, JA (2001); Brain Injury in children and adolescents: Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 7, p257-265)

service wheel3MATRIX Neurological has therefore been formed to enable children and young people who have sustained an acquired brain injury, before the age of 19, to have immediate access upon discharge to high quality community-based services and support tailored specifically to their needs. These services are currently not available nationally.  People supported by us will continue to have access to services from MATRIX Neurological until they are 25.

ABI is often referred to as a ‘hidden disability’, as survivors may have no physical evidence of their injury. Many of the impairments are not visible to others and it is only over time that the longer term effects may become apparent. The negative consequences of ABI can severely and permanently change a child’s life, as well as have a profound impact on the child’s family as a whole.

Impact on the child:

ABI can cause a range of long term disabilities such as communication and cognitive deficits, sleep disturbance, physical impairments such as post-traumatic epilepsy, depression and high rates of behaviour problems. The more severe the ABI, the greater the impairments of neuro-behavioural functions.

It is usually the cognitive, behavioural and personaity deficits that produce the greatest disruption to their quality of life. However, the long term effects often arise when childrn move into adolescence and adulthood and the true extent of these impairments may only become apparent when the child or adolescent returns to education and fails to meet develomental milestones.

Impact on the family:

It is well recognised that ABI affects both the injured individual and the family as a whole. Families experience panic and fear; shock and denial; anger; guilt and isolation and often no hope for the future. Although they eventually adapt to the increased demands of the brain injured child, it is also common for parents of children with an ABI to experience:

  • high levels of parental burden and stress
  • psychological distress and reduced coping abilities
  • deteriorating family relationships  and family conflict which often contributes to marital breakdown
  • where families also have low social resources or support, the impacts are further exacerbated

MATRIX Neurological was primarily set up to work with children, young people and their families who are living with the effects of an acquired brain injury who are in need of help or support. We are aware of the difficulties faced by parents and other community professionals in understanding what has happened and the effects of brain injury on the child or young person. Our services also aim to help parents understand a new way of living and advocate for the on-going rehabilitation needs of the child or young person.


"Our 10 year study proves that family-led home-based neuro-rehab interventions deliver the best outcomes for children and young people"
Lucia Braga; Brazil
"Case management for children and young people post acquired brain injury is 'pivotal' to successful outcomes and must be local"
Deborah Andrews; New Zealand
"Thousands of children and young people living in the UK today without the help and support that can make a huge difference to their lives"
Dalton Leong; Chief Executive of the Children's Trust
"Brain development is complex and prolonged. Brain plasticity is influenced by a range of factors. Plasticity provides a base for neuro-rehab therapies and treatment"
Professor Bryan Kolb; Canada
"New parenting support intervention showed how parenting style is related to executive dysfunction in children and young people post brain injury. With support parents cope better so the child has a better recovery"
Andrea Palacio-Navarro; Spain
"Different 'experts' involved in pediatric neuro-rehabilitation come from different organisational cultures which causes conflict and has a negative effect on the outcomes for the child."
Barbara O'Connell; Ireland
"We need to harness the power of brain plasticity for treating children and young people with brain injury. Stressful experiences alter brain development of a child, especially at the key ages of 0-3 and at ages 10-16"
Professor Bryan Kolb; Canada
"Often families don't have the financial capability to access services. We need to rethink how we delivery neuro-rehab services to children and young people"
Vicki Anderson; Australia
"We would like to see earlier identification and support for children with brain injuries to help them succeed in school."
Dalton Leong; Chief Executive of the Children's Trust
"When different organisations assess different aspects of a child's neuro-rehabilitation needs, everyone looks at things from a different perspective and highlight needs and conflicting priorities"
Cathy Jonson; Rehab without Walls; United Kingdom.

OUR MISSION: to work to remove health inequalities for children & young people affected by acquired brain injury; and provide effective support to their families that makes a real difference.

Council for Disabled Children Lottery Funded