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Concept: Coma


The electroencephalogram (EEG) reflects brain electrical activity. A flat (isoelectric) EEG, which is usually recorded during very deep coma, is considered to be a turning point between a living brain and a deceased brain. Therefore the isoelectric EEG constitutes, together with evidence of irreversible structural brain damage, one of the criteria for the assessment of brain death. In this study we use EEG recordings for humans on the one hand, and on the other hand double simultaneous intracellular recordings in the cortex and hippocampus, combined with EEG, in cats. They serve to demonstrate that a novel brain phenomenon is observable in both humans and animals during coma that is deeper than the one reflected by the isoelectric EEG, and that this state is characterized by brain activity generated within the hippocampal formation. This new state was induced either by medication applied to postanoxic coma (in human) or by application of high doses of anesthesia (isoflurane in animals) leading to an EEG activity of quasi-rhythmic sharp waves which henceforth we propose to call ν-complexes (Nu-complexes). Using simultaneous intracellular recordings in vivo in the cortex and hippocampus (especially in the CA3 region) we demonstrate that ν-complexes arise in the hippocampus and are subsequently transmitted to the cortex. The genesis of a hippocampal ν-complex depends upon another hippocampal activity, known as ripple activity, which is not overtly detectable at the cortical level. Based on our observations, we propose a scenario of how self-oscillations in hippocampal neurons can lead to a whole brain phenomenon during coma.

Concepts: Brain, Electrophysiology, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Electroencephalography, Coma, Electrocardiography


BACKGROUND:Hospital mortality has decreased over time for critically ill patients with various forms of brain injury. We hypothesized that the proportion of patients who progress to neurologic death may have also decreased. METHODS:We performed a prospective cohort study involving consecutive adult patients with traumatic brain injury, subarachnoid hemorrhage, intracerebral hemorrhage or anoxic brain injury admitted to regional intensive care units in southern Alberta over a 10.5-year period. We used multivariable logistic regression to adjust for patient age and score on the Glasgow Coma Scale at admission, and to assess whether the proportion of patients who progress to neurologic death has changed over time. RESULTS:WeThe cohort consisted of 2788 patients. The proportion of patients who progressed to neurologic death was 8.1% at the start of the study period, and the adjusted odds of progressing to neurologic death decreased over the study period (odds ratio [OR] per yr 0.92, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.87-0.98, p = 0.006). This change was most pronounced among patients with traumatic brain injury (OR per yr 0.87, 95% CI 0.78-0.96, p = 0.005); there was no change among patients with anoxic injury (OR per yr 0.96, 95% CI 0.85-1.09, p = 0.6). A review of the medical records suggests that missed cases of neurologic death were rare (≤ 0.5% of deaths). INTERPRETATION:The proportion of patients with brain injury who progress to neurologic death has decreased over time, especially among those with head trauma. This finding may reflect positive developments in the prevention and care of brain injury. However, organ donation after neurologic death represents the major source of organs for transplantation. Thus, these findings may help explain the relatively stagnant rates of deceased organ donation in some regions of Canada, which in turn has important implications for the care of patients with end-stage organ failure.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Death, Stroke, Traumatic brain injury, Intensive care medicine, Subarachnoid hemorrhage, Glasgow Coma Scale, Coma


In W v M, family members made an application to the Court of Protection for withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration from a minimally conscious patient. Subsequent scholarly discussion has centred around the ethical adequacy of the judge’s decision not to authorise withdrawal. This article brings a different perspective by drawing on interviews with 51 individuals with a relative who is (or was) in a vegetative or minimally conscious state (MCS). Most professional medical ethicists have treated the issue as one of life versus death; by contrast, families-including those who believed that their relative would not have wanted to be kept alive-focused on the manner of the proposed death and were often horrified at the idea of causing death by ‘starvation and dehydration’. The practical consequence of this can be that people in permanent vegetative state (PVS) and MCS are being administered life-prolonging treatments long after their families have come to believe that the patient would rather be dead. We suggest that medical ethicists concerned about the rights of people in PVS/MCS need to take this empirical data into account in seeking to apply ethical theories to medico-legal realities.

Concepts: Scientific method, Death, Consciousness, Empiricism, Coma, Persistent vegetative state, Brain death, Minimally conscious state


Background Therapeutic hypothermia is recommended for comatose adults after witnessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, but data about this intervention in children are limited. Methods We conducted this trial of two targeted temperature interventions at 38 children’s hospitals involving children who remained unconscious after out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Within 6 hours after the return of circulation, comatose patients who were older than 2 days and younger than 18 years of age were randomly assigned to therapeutic hypothermia (target temperature, 33.0°C) or therapeutic normothermia (target temperature, 36.8°C). The primary efficacy outcome, survival at 12 months after cardiac arrest with a Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, second edition (VABS-II), score of 70 or higher (on a scale from 20 to 160, with higher scores indicating better function), was evaluated among patients with a VABS-II score of at least 70 before cardiac arrest. Results A total of 295 patients underwent randomization. Among the 260 patients with data that could be could be evaluated and who had a VABS-II score of at least 70 before cardiac arrest, there was no significant difference in the primary outcome between the hypothermia group and the normothermia group (20% vs. 12%; relative likelihood, 1.54; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.86 to 2.76; P=0.14). Among all the patients with data that could be evaluated, the change in the VABS-II score from baseline to 12 months was not significantly different (P=0.13) and 1-year survival was similar (38% in the hypothermia group vs. 29% in the normothermia group; relative likelihood, 1.29; 95% CI, 0.93 to 1.79; P=0.13). The groups had similar incidences of infection and serious arrhythmias, as well as similar use of blood products and 28-day mortality. Conclusions In comatose children who survived out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, therapeutic hypothermia, as compared with therapeutic normothermia, did not confer a significant benefit in survival with a good functional outcome at 1 year. (Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and others; THAPCA-OH number, NCT00878644 .).

Concepts: Blood, Heart, Cardiac arrest, Asystole, Therapeutic hypothermia, Nuisance parameter, Coma, Drowning


Two cases in which patients have been determined to be dead according to neurologic criteria (“brain death”) have recently garnered national headlines. In Oakland, California, Jahi McMath’s death was determined by means of multiple independent neurologic examinations, including one ordered by a court. Her family refused to accept that she had died and went to court to prevent physicians at Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland from discontinuing ventilator support. Per a court-supervised agreement, the body was given to the family 3 weeks after the initial determination. The family’s attorney stated that ventilatory support was continued and nutritional support . . .

Concepts: Medicine, Death, Hospital, Clinical death, Accept, Coma, Legal death, Brain death


The objective of this study was to determine the predictive value of the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) and the Glasgow Motor Component (GMC) for overall mortality, death on arrival, and major injury and the relationship between GCS and length of stay (LOS) in the emergency department (ED) and hospital.

Concepts: Hospital, Physician, Trauma center, Emergency medicine, Glasgow Coma Scale, Coma, Emergency department, Trauma team


BackgroundDecreased level of consciousness is a rare neurological manifestation of spontaneous intracranial hypotension (SIH), which typically presents with orthostatic headache. The optimal management of this uncommon presentation remains uncertain.MethodsWe analyzed the presentation, management and outcome of two patients in our institution and reviewed 22 patients reported in the literature with SIH and decreased level of consciousness, defined as any decrease in the patient’s Glasgow Coma Scale score.ResultsThere were 20 male and four female patients (M:F ratio of 5:1) with an average age of 52 years (range 37 to 68 years). There was a variable time interval of up to many months between the initial presentation of SIH and changes in the level of consciousness. An epidural autologous blood patch was eventually successful in 79% of the patients, although up to three trials were necessary in seven of these patients. Intrathecal saline infusion used as a temporizing measure resulted in excellent response within hours in five out of six patients who received this treatment. Drainage of the subdural collection either did not result in any sustained improvement or resulted in clinical deterioration in 12 out of 12 patients who received this treatment.ConclusionsIn the absence of a clinical trial because of the rarity of this entity, the treatment of SIH complicated by decreased level of consciousness remained controversial in the past. However, current collective experience supports early treatment of patients with SIH and decreased level of consciousness with one or more epidural blood patches. Fibrin glue and surgical duroplasty are the next steps in the management of patients in whom epidural blood patches fail. Drainage of the subdural collections may be detrimental.

Concepts: Patient, Neurology, Orthostatic hypotension, Glasgow Coma Scale, Coma, Result, Spontaneous cerebrospinal fluid leak, Orthostatic headache


To assess: (i) the clinical characteristics and injury descriptors of patients with severe traumatic brain injury in Northern Sweden admitted to the single Neurotrauma Center (NC) serving this region; (ii) the care pathway of patients from injury to 3 months after discharge from the NC; and (iii) the outcomes at 3 months post-injury. Population-based prospective 2-year cohort study. Patients age 17-65 years with acute severe traumatic brain injury, lowest non-sedated Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of 3-8 within 24 h post-trauma. Patients were treated according to an intracranial pressure-oriented protocol based on the Lund concept at the NC. They were assessed at 3 weeks after injury with Rancho Los Amigos Cognitive Scale Revised (RLAS-R), Levels of Cognitive functioning, and at 3 months with RLAS-R and Glasgow Outcome Scale Extended (GOSE). A total of 37 patients were included. Hospital deaths within 3 months post-injury occurred in 5 patients. After 3 months the RLAS-R scores were significantly improved (< 0.001). Eight patients had both "superior cognitive functioning" on the RLAS-R and "favourable outcome" on the GOSE. Thirty-four patients (92%) were directly admitted to the NC. By contrast, after discharge patients were transferred back to one of several county hospitals or to one of several local hospitals, and some had multiple transfers between different hospitals and departments. Overall outcomes were surprisingly good in this group of severely injured patients. The routines for transferring patients with severe traumatic brain injury from a geographically large, sparsely populated region to a regional NC to receive well-monitored neurosurgical care seem to work very well. The post-acute clinical pathways are less clearly reflecting an optimized medical and rehabilitative strategy.

Concepts: Brain, Traumatic brain injury, Intracranial pressure, Cognition, Glasgow Coma Scale, Brain injury, Coma, Rancho Los Amigos Scale


This study aimed to examine the correlation between the alterations in serum sex hormones testosterone (T) and estradiol (E2) in the early stages after craniocerebral and extracranial injuries, to assess the Injury Severity Score (ISS) and Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score in patients with multiple injuries, and to investigate the significance of the posttrauma changes in ISS and GCS as well as their ratio.

Concepts: Traumatic brain injury, Luteinizing hormone, Testosterone, Human sexuality, Physical trauma, Glasgow Coma Scale, Coma, Injury Severity Score


Hanging is known not only as a common method of suicide but also as a capital punishment method in some countries. Although several cases have been reported to survive after the attempted suicidal/accidental hanging, to the extent of our knowledge, no modern case of survival after judicial hanging exists. We reported a case of an individual who revived after modern judicial hanging despite being declared dead. The case was admitted with poor clinical presentations and the Glasgow Coma Scale of 6/15. The victim received all the standard supportive intensive care and gained complete clinical recovery.

Concepts: Scientific method, Death, Intensive care medicine, Capital punishment, Hanging, Glasgow Coma Scale, Coma, Plato