Brain Scans May Predict Which Coma Patients Will Awaken
Brain scans of people in a coma may be able to determine if they will regain consciousness, according to new research published in the journal Neurology.
Scientists at the French National Research Institute used functional magnetic resource imaging (fMRI) scans of 27 people in a coma as a result of brain injuries, and scans of 14 healthy patients as a control. Scans were conducted after all sedative drugs had left the systems of the study participants.
All coma patients showed disruptions in connections between brain areas and the posterior cingulate cortex, which were the same whether the coma was brought on by lack of oxygen, or trauma.
However, researchers noted that there was a significant difference in the coordination of activity between the posterior cingulate cortex and the medial prefrontal cortex. This seemed to be an indicator of who would go on to recover from the coma and which patients would remain in an unconscious or vegetative state.
Those who had coordination between the two brain areas went on to regain consciousness.
Comas, whether the result of injury trauma or from being medically induced, can last for days, weeks or longer. When medically induced, doctors typically cannot predict when a patient will wake up.
While this study shows promise, researchers say more studies are needed before this information can be used to guide decisions for coma patients.