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Coma and Persistent Vegetative State

Comments [10]

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Coma and Persistent Vegetative State

What is Coma and Persistent Vegetative State?

A coma is a profound or deep state of unconsciousness. An individual in a state of coma is alive but unable to move or respond to his or her environment. Coma may occur as a complication of an underlying illness, or as a result of injuries, such as head trauma. A persistent vegetative state (commonly, but incorrectly, referred to as "brain death") sometimes follows a coma. Individuals in such a state have lost their thinking abilities and awareness of their surroundings, but retain non-cognitive function and normal sleep patterns. Even though those in a persistent vegetative state lose their higher brain functions, other key functions such as breathing and circulation remain relatively intact. Spontaneous movements may occur, and the eyes may open in response to external stimuli. They may even occasionally grimace, cry, or laugh. Although individuals in a persistent vegetative state may appear somewhat normal, they do not speak and they are unable to respond to commands.

Is there any treatment?

Once an individual is out of immediate danger, the medical care team focuses on preventing infections and maintaining a healthy physical state. This will often include preventing pneumonia and bedsores and providing balanced nutrition. Physical therapy may also be used to prevent contractures (permanent muscular contractions) and deformities of the bones, joints, and muscles that would limit recovery for those who emerge from coma.

What is the prognosis?

The outcome for coma and persistent vegetative state depends on the cause, severity, and site of neurological damage. Individuals may emerge from coma with a combination of physical, intellectual, and psychological difficulties that need special attention. Recovery usually occurs gradually, with some acquiring more and more ability to respond. Some individuals never progress beyond very basic responses, but many recover full awareness. Individuals recovering from coma require close medical supervision. A coma rarely lasts more than 2 to 4 weeks. Some patients may regain a degree of awareness after persistent vegetative state. Others may remain in that state for years or even decades. The most common cause of death for someone in a persistent vegetative state is infection, such as pneumonia.

What research is being done?

The NINDS supports and conducts research on neurological conditions such as coma and persistent vegetative state. This research is aimed at finding ways to prevent, treat, and cure these conditions.

Select this link to view a list of studies currently seeking patients.


Brain Injury Association of America, Inc.
1608 Spring Hill Rd
Suite 110
Vienna, VA 22182
Tel: 703-761-0750 800-444-6443
Fax: 703-761-0755

Brain Trauma Foundation
523 East 72nd Street
8th Floor
New York, NY 10021
Tel: 212-772-0608
Fax: 212-772-0357

Coma Recovery Association
8300 Republic Airport
Suite 106
Farmingdale, NY 11735
Tel: 631-756-1826
Fax: 631-756-1827

Family Caregiver Alliance/ National Center on Caregiving
180 Montgomery Street
Suite 1100
San Francisco, CA 94104
Tel: 415-434-3388 800-445-8106
Fax: 415-434-3508

National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC)
4200 Forbes Boulevard
Suite 202
Lanham, MD 20706-4829
Tel: 301-459-5900/301-459-5984 (TTY) 800-346-2742
Fax: 301-562-2401

National Stroke Association
9707 East Easter Lane
Suite B
Centennial, CO 80112-3747
Tel: 303-649-9299 800-STROKES (787-6537)
Fax: 303-649-1328

From the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. National Institutes of Health. www.ninds.nih.gov.

Comments [10]

I have a friend who has been in a PVS for over 2 years now. I have been constantly racking my brain whether or not she is there. It weighs on me everyday. Has anyone had luck with any clinical studies? Or anyone hear how Zolpidem might be proven to wake them?
I found this link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23462249

Does anyone know of actual success? Much Prayers and Love to you all. This is testing who you are as family. Stay strong..

Jan 5th, 2017 8:47am

We received news today that my mom is in a PVS, she has been in a coma for 40 days after bleeding on the brain. Doctor suggest nature takes its cause. So many people have constantly prayed. She looks lost. Anybody have any stories of hope or miracles?

Dec 9th, 2016 7:36pm

Mu husband had a heart attack a year ago. He was with no oxygen for 20 minutes before he was rushed to the ER. 5 doctors told me to disconnect, the head nurse described to me how he would die slowly. They told me I was being selfish. His family came against me, I lost my home, my younger son is not doing good in dealing with this. No nursing home wanted him because he would get very agitated, and no one trusted me to bring him home. A year later he is walking, eating solid foods, showering on his own, goes to the bathroom by himself, loves watching comedies, and the next challenge is speech therapy. He was in a vegetative state. He is a pastor so we take him to church and he prays fir people. God has given us promises and nothing will stop his promises from coming true in his life. Its hard, I cry everyday because I miss who he was, but I refuse to give up. Only you know your loved ones, only you know what they want and how much they may love life. Its not over until you and I give up on them.

Sep 22nd, 2016 8:34pm

My husband is in pvs but only responds to me and close relatives. He's 51.  It's been close to 30 days already. He had a cardiac arrest, prior to a surgery. I also believe in miracles. Is there any hope he will wakeup from this coma?

Aug 23rd, 2016 4:03pm

My mother who is aged about 68 yrs has malignant brain tumor admitted in hospital for the last 10 days there is no sign of improvement and her condition has worsened by going in vegetative state for last 7days Dr has advised to take her back to home as there is no chance of recovery even surgeon refused to operate under such conditions I'm hopeless is there any chance of recovery?

Aug 2nd, 2016 11:32am

My husband remained in PVS for almost 8 years followed to a sudden cardiac arrest, I believe in miracles and things happened for a reason. Our love stays forever just as the day when we made our vows.

Jul 12th, 2016 12:20pm

I really hope you find some peace. My Brother in law has had a severe stroke and my sister has been told he will now be moved from ITU to the stroke ward and be kept comfortable she has been told he will not recover. Thinking about you and sending golden vibes xxx

Nov 18th, 2015 8:11pm

miracles happen

Nov 20th, 2014 10:41pm

My brother due to lack of oxygen (severe asthma attack- 20 plus minutes without oxygen) had several brain damage and based on neurologist report recovery is not possible. If awareness will not come back he would not have wanted to go on

Sep 10th, 2014 7:29am

I have a brother Who has been diagnosis as a persistent vegetative state for six weeks. The doctors are now telling me he can't. Hear me do this type of illness lose their hearing?

Jul 15th, 2014 3:19am

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