Vista Centre

Providing support to individuals living with the effects of Brain InjuryProviding support to individuals living with the effects of Brain Injury

Definition of Acquired Brain Injury

An acquired brain injury is damage to the brain which occurs after birth and is not related to:

  • a congenital disorder
  • a developmental disability or
  • a process which progressively damages the brain. (see Appendix I)

The damage may be caused:

  • traumatically (i.e., from an external force such as a collision, fall, assault or sports injury)
  • through a medical problem or disease process which causes damage to the brain (internal process or pathology). (see Appendix II)

Members of the Toronto Acquired Brain Injury Network rehabilitation services continuum all have their individual criteria for service provision. Each referral will be assessed on a case by case basis.

Factors such as the following will be used in the consideration process:

  • medical stability/complexity
  • potential to benefit from therapy or resources offered
  • primary or overriding problems which could be a barrier to the rehabilitation process or to the delivery of service.

These may include:

  • psychiatric problems
  • drug/alcohol dependency
  • behavioural issues

Appendix I

Congenital Development Problems: (not considered ABI)

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Autism (Pervasive Developmental Disorder)
  • Developmental Delay
  • Down's Syndrome (21 Chromosomal Abnormalities)
  • Spina Bifida with hydrocephalus
  • Muscular Dystrophy

Progressive Processes/Diseases: (not considered ABI)

  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Pick's Disease
  • Dementing Processes
  • Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson's Disease and Similar Movement Disorders
  • Huntington's Disease

Appendix II

Non-Traumatic Causes of ABI:

  • Anoxia
  • Aneurysm and Vascular Malformations
  • Brain Tumours
  • Encephalitis
  • Meningitis
  • Metabolic Encephalopathies
  • Stroke with Cognitive Disabilities (eligibility for service may depend on clients needs/goals)


This definition for "acquired brain injury" (or "ABI") was developed by the Clinical Data Working Group of the Toronto ABI Network and adopted by the Advisory Committee.

As part of developing consensus, several drafts of the definition were distributed to clinicians and professionals in the ABI field to ensure that it is clear, accurate and addresses the issues across the continuum of service.