Doctors from Ohio and around the world recently learned about progress in communicating with unconscious or comatose patients. Those who work with individuals suffering from a traumatic brain injury may soon be able to measure the consciousness of patients who are unable to move. The Italian researchers found that as many as 40 percent of patients who were diagnosed as unresponsive have some level of consciousness, which means that they are aware of what is going on around them but cannot signal this understanding verbally or through bodily motion because of their incapacitation.
The researchers focused on the brain’s response to magnetic stimulation. The researchers soon determined that the brain of a healthy individual who was sleeping responded differently than the brain of someone who was awake. They also tested healthy individuals who were under anesthesia, to measure different states of consciousness. When the researchers repeated the tests on individuals with brain injuries, they found that patients who were not thought to have any awareness had lower consciousness than healthy individuals who are asleep. Patients who were able to look around had the same consciousness scores as healthy patients.
The researchers hope that they can develop a way to determine if an unresponsive person is conscious. With a reliable bedside test, doctors and other caregivers will have another tool with which to determine if the patient’s treatment is appropriate.
Traumatic brain injury can be devastating for individuals and their entire families. An attorney experienced in litigating head injury cases may be able to help arrange accident compensation for long-term care and rehabilitation, therapy and other medical expenses. Such a lawyer may also seek compensation for pain and suffering as well as other damages.
Source: Medical News Today, “Brain injuries: measuring consciousness by ‘perturbing the brain’“, Marie Ellis, August 16, 2013