Shepherd Center Profile

Acquired Brain Injuries

Another area of specialty for Shepherd Center is acquired brain injury (ABI). A stroke is a classic ABI. In a stroke, a clot blocks a blood vessel leading to the brain, causing the death of brain cells in the affected area. A brain tumor and the damage it causes is another form of acquired brain injury.

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a specialized form of ABI. TBIs are caused by an external force or by a rapid movement of the head, in which the brain is whipped back and forth and bounces off the inside of the skull. People frequently receive TBIs in automobile accidents or sports accidents.

Brain injury may result in physical, intellectual, emotional, social and vocational difficulties, so it is important to receive the appropriate care and therapy at the earliest stages of recovery. Rehabilitation involves learning new ways to compensate for abilities that have permanently changed due to brain injury. Regardless of how the patient acquires the injury, Shepherd Center's goal is to intervene as quickly as possible and provide the best care available. As the patient recovers, the staff at Shepherd Center also works with the family, the employer and the community to make the transition as smooth as possible.

ABIs are surprisingly common in the United States, with an estimated 1.5 million to 2 million Americans sustaining brain injuries each year. An estimated 50,000 people die each year of traumatic brain injuries in the United States.

The first stage of recovery may begin in the intensive care unit, where doctors and nurses help control the brain’s natural swelling process that follows such an injury. The patient may even be in a coma, which means he or she does not respond to stimulation. Later, the patient may move to a hospital room and begin a daily therapy program to re-learn basic skills such as memory, speech, balance, walking, writing or problem solving. Some people need continued therapy and may move to a post-acute setting that prepares them for more independent living.

People who sustain a severe brain injury can make significant improvements in the first year after injury, and can continue to improve at a slower pace for many years. Brain injury does not mean the end of a fulfilling and productive life; in fact, 95 percent of Shepherd’s patients return to their community having achieved a higher level of functioning.