Acquired Brain Damage: Its 3 Main Causes

This type of serious alterations of the nervous system can appear in different forms.

Knowing the causes that damage the brain  and the consequences originated in behavior is vital in the study of  neuropsychology. Thanks to the appearance of functional and structural neuroimaging techniques, it has been possible to study damaged brain structures from the moment of injury, as well as their subsequent evolution. 

Likewise, in most cases there are physical, cognitive and emotional sequelae that end up generating some type of disability. 

Causes of acquired brain damage in adults

In adults, the following causes of acquired brain damage (ACD) stand out.

1. Stroke

Cerebrovascular accidents (CVA) are differentiated into two subtypes: ischemic and hemorrhagic, the former being more frequent. Ischemic strokes are characterized by the interruption of blood flow in a certain area of ​​the brain that prevents the supply of oxygen and glucose, leading to a heart attack. Three main causes are distinguished:

  • Thromboses. It is the most frequent cause of cerebral infarcts, and its origin is found in the obstruction of an artery due to the formation of a clot or fat pad.
  • Emboli. It is based on the obstruction of an artery as a result of a clot that is dragged from the point where it originated. To read more about this phenomenon you can read  this article.
  • Aneurism. It occurs when an artery is dilated as a result of the weakness of its walls, giving the appearance of an  expansive balloon.

On the other hand, hemorrhagic strokes stand out, based on the shedding of blood due to the rupture of arteries, highlighting intracerebral and subarachnoid hemorrhages.

2. Head injuries

Head injuries (TBI) are the leading cause of death among the very young. Brain damage is caused as a consequence of external agents such as traffic accidents, falls, work accidents, etc. 

Open TBIs are due to brain injuries as a result of injuries to the skull or fractures that reach the brain, although they do not usually affect the state of consciousness.

For its part, closed head injuries are often accompanied by states of coma, derived mostly from traffic accidents. In these cases, contusion with small hemorrhages in superficial vessels stands out as the main damage, and axonal damage can also occur  with the consequent loss of  myelin that may cause deficits in attention, memory and information processing, especially when the lobes involved are the frontal and temporal.

3. Tumors

Tumors are expansive processes that can originate in any part of the brain. These are divided into primary, when they originate in the brain itself, or secondary, when they come from metastasis from other areas of the body. The danger depends on its ability to infiltrate the organ and its ability to proliferate. 

The most common are gliomas, derived from  glial cells such as astrocytes, being glioblastoma multiforme one of the most lethal, since it tends to quickly invade brain tissue, so that when it is diagnosed it is usually too late to perform a good treatment.

How do you intervene medically?

Identifying the risk factors for brain damage is of vital importance for primary prevention, the main ones being age, genetic vulnerability and previous vascular diseases, as well as the presence of heart disease, hypertension, obesity and substance use, among others. 

The prognosis will depend in any case on the age of the patient, as well as the extension and the affected brain area. In the case of stroke, treatment must be very fast, since otherwise it may worsen and series may occur, so in addition to administering drugs that reduce blood pressure, surgical intervention is often necessary to reduce bleeding.

Bibliographic references:

  • Bilder, RM (2011). Neuropsychology 3.0: evidence-based science and practice. J Int Neuropsychol Soc nº 17.
  • Maas S .; Strocchetti N, Bullock R. (2008). Moderate and severe traumatic brain injury in adults. Lancet Neurol.

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