Dr. Kathleen Bell on Acquired Brain Injury

Dallas neuro-rehabilitation specialist Dr. Kathleen Bell answers questions about acquired brain injury.

Q:

What changes or impairments are caused by acquired brain injury?

A:

The most significant changes in functioning to persons with acquired brain injuries are in their thinking skills and in their behavior. They often experience differences in the way they assess their environment and make decisions. It sounds subtle, but it’s enormously important in daily life to be able to assess a situation correctly – to be able to look ahead and determine what the outcome might be if you make a certain decision one way or another.

That said, the brain does everything for us, so almost any function can be altered with an acquired brain injury.

Q:

What’s the difference between acquired brain injury and traumatic brain injury?

A:

Acquired brain injury is a more general term. It includes traumatic brain injury. Acquired brain injury also includes strokes, brain tumors, and infectious disorders of the brain like West Nile encephalitis, which we’ve seen here in Dallas.

Q:

What guides rehabilitation for patients with acquired brain injury?

A:

Because every brain is different and every injury is different, there’s never a set protocol in rehabilitation for brain injury. We’re dealing with the personality and the strengths and weaknesses of the person before he or she had the injury, we’re dealing with the injury, and we’re dealing with the aftermath of the injury, which can include things like depression and anxiety. Typically, one does a very comprehensive evaluation of a person’s cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and other physical abilities, and then tailors a program to the needs of the person.

For instance, a program might include pharmacological treatment for cognitive disorders to help a patient think faster, pay more attention, sleep better, or have less fatigue. If the patient has problems with motor abilities or spasticity, we might give injections or other types of blocks. Cognitive rehabilitation is commonly administered by an occupational therapist or speech therapist who helps people practice and organize their thinking skills. A tailored program might also include physical therapy to help them with their balance. We might address their ability to tolerate work activities and relearn to do activities they need to run their house or go back to work. So it really depends on what their needs are and what their comprehensive evaluation reveals.