Coma and vegetative states: state of the art and proposal of a novel approach combining existing coma scales.
Annali dell'Istituto superiore di sanita, January 2014
Bonsignore, Luca Tommaso, Macrì, Simone, Orsi, Paolo, Chiarotti, Flavia, Alleva, Enrico
Brain damage of various aetiologies can lead to different disorders of consciousness (DOC), varying from coma to vegetative, to minimally conscious states. Each state is characterised by a different degree of wakefulness, awareness, pain sensitivity and is differentially handled with respect to treatment, ethical considerations and end-oflife decisions. Thus, its correct identification is crucial while devising or modulating appropriate treatment strategies. Actually, the main coma scales cannot always accurately determine the state of consciousness of an individual, while other tools (e.g. imaging techniques) present a certain degree of uncertainty. A complementary approach may be constituted by a 24-hour observation of patients, for a sufficient period of days, using an ad hoc behavioural scale, further correlated with physiological and pharmacological parameters measured on patients. The method herein described might help recognising the presence of consciousness of the different DOC patients, and thus discerning a vegetative from a minimally conscious state.
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