There is hope for vegetative-state patients

Nerve stimulation therapy can be the solution.

There is hope for vegetative-state patients 

Leer en Español: ¿Esperanza para los pacientes en estado vegetativo?

A research published in the Current Biology journal showed that a French patient, who has been in a vegetative-state for more than 15-years, is reacting to a special new therapy. The researchers implanted nerve stimulators inside the chest of the patient in the hopes to affect the vagus nerve.

The nerve gradually received an increased intensity reaching 1.5 Amperes and the effects were monitored over the course of 6 months.According to the results of the electroencephalographic test and clinical examination, just a month after the trial, the patient showed  "reproducible and consistent improvements in general arousal, sustained attention, body motility and visual pursuit".

The research also assured that "the Coma Recovery Scale-Revised test also showed an improvement mostly in the visual domain as stimulation increased from a score of 5 at baseline to 10 at highest intensities", which represents a not a vegetative, but minimal conscious state.

The vagus nerve is in charge in the conscious and unconscious information that travels throughout the central nervous system. The nerve transports the information to the heart, stomach, pancreas, liver, and other vital organs.

According to the National Health System of England (NHS), a vegetative-state patient "may open their eyes, wake up and fall asleep, have basic reflex such as blinking (...) they are also able to regulate their heartbeat and breathing without assistance. But they show any meaningful responses, such as following an object with their eyes or responding to voices. They also show no signs of experiencing emotions".

Experts are aware of the possibilities due to these kind of responses, but explained that it still needs more research.


Latin American Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto