Diagnosing and managing acquired brain injury (ABI) including encephalitis, in adults and children. A guide for General Practitioners (GPs)

General practitioners (GPs) are often the first port of call for many people with a brain injury and are an important ally in their journey to recovery. In developing this guide we hope we can support GPs by providing evidence-based and up-to-date information to help with recognising and managing the acute symptoms and effects of an ABI. We also cover the unique challenges inherent in diagnosing encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and managing associated consequences.

The information included here is aimed primarily at GPs but may be of interest to other healthcare professionals, particularly those in primary care such as practice nurses and professions allied to medicine.

This guide has been developed after consultation with a range of patients, their families and the doctors and therapists who form our Scientific Advisory Panel (the details of which can be viewed toward the end of this booklet). Whilst this guidance will focus on current UK practice, the issues which it highlights are relevant to many national contexts.

Key Messages

  • Early recognition of signs and symptoms of the acute brain injury is important as this potentially limits the extent of injury to the brain and enhances the chances of survival.
  • A full history of the illness from the patient and/or the family can assist the diagnosis and
    management of the causes and effects of an ABI.
  • Irrespective of the cause, these patients may be left with an ABI of various degrees.
  • Even in the case of mild brain injury, there can be an adverse impact on the person’s everyday functioning with a need for education and management.
  • ABI is not a singular diagnosis and presentations can be complex.
  • The effects of an ABI may become obvious after the patient is discharged home when they attempt more challenging tasks.
  • The effects of an ABI are seen not only immediately after the brain injury, but also in the long-term, and, in the case of children, later in life when they are using news skills.
  • Early referral to appropriate services for managing an ABI enhances recovery.
  • ABI impacts not only on the patient but also on the family members, friends, carers, and their
    wider communities.

The guide has been endorsed by 

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