Brain Injuries in Australia

Rendering of brain injury trauma

Are Brain injuries in Australia common?

Brain injuries in Australia affect around 1/45 people according to the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare. An Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) can put limits on activities and participation in everyday life and the workforce.

What are brain injuries?

A brain injury is any disorder that impairs the function of the brain. It can include head injuries, concussions, and degenerative brain disorders. These injuries are often unable to be seen by outsiders but can cause serious problems and changes in a person’s life.

What are the causes of brain injuries?

What are the causes of brain injuries?

From Shepherd Center, there are two types of brain injuries that can occur: traumatic and non-traumatic. 

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are commonly caused by: 

  • Motor vehicle accidents 
  • Falls 
  • Violence or gunshot wound 
  • Concussions

Non-traumatic brain injuries include those caused by:

  • Stroke (leading cause)  
  • Lack of oxygen (hypoxia)
  • Tumors
  • Other illness such as cancer
  • Brain infections or inflammation
  • Other infections

What are the symptoms associated with brain injuries?

According to Synapse, the symptoms of brain injuries can be cognitive, physical, psychological, behavioural, and lifestyle changes.

Some of the cognitive effects are:

  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty problem-solving
  • Poor concentration and attention
  • Reduced ability to organise and plan
  • Lack of initiative and motivation
  • Lack of insight and awareness, and poor judgement

The physical symptoms include:

  • Movement disorders and paralysis
  • Dizziness and balance problems
  • Epilepsy and seizures
  • Eyesight, hearing and speech problems
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Headaches
  • Chronic pain
  • Fatigue and sleep disorders
  • Hormonal changes

The behavioural effects are:

  • Irritability and anger
  • Slowed responses
  • Poor social skills
  • Impulsive behaviour and/or a lack of emotional control
  • Disinhibition

And some psychological effects include:

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety

These symptoms can also affect:

  • Changes to living arrangements
  • Reduced or changed social networks
  • Changes in ability to work or study
  • Altered relationships and family dynamics

What help is available for Australians with brain injuries? 

From Mayo Clinic, the treatment depends heavily on the severity of the injury.

Mild injury

Mild traumatic brain injuries usually require no treatment other than rest and over-the-counter pain relievers to treat a headache. However, a person with a mild traumatic brain injury usually needs to be monitored closely at home for any persistent, worsening or new symptoms. 

The doctor will indicate when a return to work, school or recreational activities is appropriate. It isn’t recommended that you rest completely from mental and physical activity. Most people return to normal routines gradually.

Immediate emergency care

Emergency care for moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries focuses on making sure the person has enough oxygen and an adequate blood supply, maintaining blood pressure, and preventing any further injury to the head or neck.

People with severe injuries may also have other injuries that need to be addressed. Additional treatments in the emergency room or intensive care unit of a hospital will focus on minimizing secondary damage due to inflammation, bleeding or reduced oxygen supply to the brain.


Medications to limit secondary damage to the brain immediately after an injury may include:

Anti-seizure drugs, coma-inducing drugs, diuretics.


Emergency surgery may be needed to minimize additional damage to brain tissues. Surgery may be used to address the following problems:

  • Removing clotted blood (hematomas). Bleeding outside or within the brain can result in a collection of clotted blood (hematoma) that puts pressure on the brain and damages brain tissue.
  • Repairing skull fractures. Surgery may be needed to repair severe skull fractures or to remove pieces of skull in the brain.
  • Bleeding in the brain. Head injuries that cause bleeding in the brain may need surgery to stop the bleeding.
  • Opening a window in the skull. Surgery may be used to relieve pressure inside the skull by draining accumulated cerebrospinal fluid or creating a window in the skull that provides more room for swollen tissues.

What Rehabilitation is available for Australians with Brain injuries?

From the Medical Journal of Australia, in rehabilitation the goal is to help the person Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) rehabilitation is best managed by a specialised interdisciplinary team of health professionals; although such specialised teams are available in all regions of Australia, some States have more comprehensive services than others. TBI rehabilitation often consists of two phases — inpatient and community management.

Inpatient management is required for those with more severe and acute physical, cognitive and/or behavioural deficits. The focus is on issues such as PTA monitoring, retraining in activities of daily living, pain management, cognitive and behavioural therapies, pharmacological management, assistive technology, environmental manipulation, as well as family education and counselling. 

Community rehabilitation follows discharge from an inpatient rehabilitation service. Helping a person with TBI return to maximum independence and participation in the community is an extremely difficult task. Family support, education and counselling are vital and likely to be needed for a prolonged period.

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