Contemporary medicine has developed advanced supportive and rehabilitation methods that allow helping people with serious brain injuries. During the past decade, many clinical trials have been conducted to understand how to help patients in coma, which has contributed to the emergence of effective, evidence-based techniques and approaches. Today, doctors can determine if a person can recover from comma by assessing the neurological response (Fitzgerald, 2017), and they have some innovative approaches to supporting the body to stimulate the return of consciousness and gradual recovery (Dehaene, 2014). In this short essay, I conduct a brief overview of the current advancements and suggest that coma is a reversible condition that may soon be treated more effectively.
To begin with, one needs to explain that coma is a state of unconsciousness, during which a person is unable to respond to the environment. While the brain and body continue to operate, and the person looks quite healthy at first sight, he/she cannot be awakened by any available means (Niedermeyer & da Silva, 2005). Coma is typically caused by head injuries, but can also be a consequence of a stroke, high blood sugar levels, prolonged lack of oxygen, infections, etc. Therefore, the way a person in coma is treated always depends on the causes of the state. Thus, for example, infections in the brain can be treated with antibiotics; if given timely, there are the high chances that a person will return to the normal condition (Winson, Wilson, & Bateman, 2017).
It is important to highlight that there are currently no ways to make a person come out of a coma, but there are strategies to address the cause of this state and support the body. People are cared for in intensive care units and given the required medication depending on each particular case. In some cases, a ventilator is used to ensure that a patient receives the required amount of oxygen to support normal body functioning (Winson et al., 2017). Moreover, advanced testing methods such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), for example, are widely used to assess the degree of the brain damage and make prognosis regarding the recovery. These techniques are extremely important as they allow making difficult decisions about further treatment and distinguish between people who have chances to recover and those who would probably never wake up (Wanjek, 2008).
Getting inside someone’s head and making predictions are still tricky, and some of the emerging technologies allow making these processes more sophisticated and accurate. For example, scientists have developed detailed scales that allow the medical staff to predict accurately whether people in coma caused by brain damage can recover their consciousness (Kavusipur, Shirazi, Ardekani, & Omidi, 2013). More futuristic solutions may also be used in the nearest future, as scientists now explore how brain implants can help stimulate the parts of the brain most damaged by the disease or injury (Dehaene, 2014). Although there is still much work to do, researchers hope that soon, it would be possible not only to support people in comma but actively stimulate the return of consciousness.
To summarize the argument presented above, I would like to note that coma is a serious condition that cannot be reversed by any available means. While doctors may prevent this state of unconsciousness and support the body while the person is in coma, they cannot bring him/her to the normal state. However, there is hope that in the nearest future, scientists will design more sophisticated treatment and prognosis technique that will help to recover from coma quickly and with no serious consequences.
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Dehaene, S. (2014). Consciousness and the brain: Deciphering how the brain codes our thoughts. New York: Viking.
Fitzgerald, S. (2017). At the clinic – Coma recovery: Pupillometry technique found to predict neurologic recovery from coma after cardiac arrest. Neurology Today, 17(16), 8–11. doi:10.1097/01.NT.0000524438.84642.d6
Kavusipur, S., Shirazi, Z. R., Ardekani, Z., & Omidi, S. (2013). Prediction of consciousness recovery in coma after traumatic brain injury by Disorder of Consciousness Scale (DOCS). Bull Emerg Trauma, 1(2), 86–89.
Niedermeyer, E., & da Silva, F. H. L. (2005). Electroencephalography: Basic principles, clinical applications, and related fields. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Wanjek, C. (2008). New techniques probe consciousness during a coma. LiveScience. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/4430-techniques-probe-consciousness-coma.html
Winson, R., Wilson, B. A. & Bateman, A. (2017). The brain injury rehabilitation workbook. New York: Guilford Publications.