Acquired brain injuries (ABIs;) are a leading cause of childhood disability worldwide and are frequently cited as a major area of public health concern. There are well-recognised effects of ABI on the structural integrity, metabolic activity and neuronal function of the developing brain. However, in the last 20 years, researchers have increasingly been attempting to uncover the relationships between injury-related factors and the cognitive, emotional and behavioural outcomes for the child. In conjunction with this, emerging research has highlighted the detrimental and potentially lifelong effects not only for those who sustain an ABI but also on their families and broader societal costs. Negative lifelong health, social and economic outcomes are increasingly being recognised.
Given the high prevalence of ABI and the potential lifelong effects, a range of strategies are aimed at the reduction of new cases, particularly with the identification of high-risk groups. However, for those who sustain an ABI, care pathways span acute emergency care through to long-term community-based healthcare. Outcomes following ABI are now known to be contingent upon a range of complex bidirectional relationships that span biological and environmental factors, which are being increasingly recognised. Furthermore, such outcomes change over the course of development. For clinicians, an emphasis on modifiable factors is important, and investigations are uncovering the biological, psychological and social mechanisms that underpin impairment following ABI. It is hoped that identification of such relationships will inform the health and social care needs of individuals with ABI, and guide clinical decision making for those undergoing associated treatments. Early identification and appropriate management of complications following ABI may not only reduce mortality but may also help reduce long-term morbidity.