Saturday, October 30, 2010

Vegetative patients may be aware of their surroundings

Here is an interesting piece of research. Click on the title for the full Globe and Mail article. CLick on the images for the Globe photos.

I know that we are aware of what is going on around us, whether visibly conscious or not. This is proof. Also, when we work with those who appear in a coma, or unresponsive, we must ensure that we treat them with dignity and respect.

As I cared for my dying father in his LTC room, I held his hand, talked to him, and told him he should be free to visit mom in heaven. His time was done. I tried to get him pain meds for a month, as I knew he was in pain. It was a bitter fight, as he could not articulate his need. He sang at the top of his lungs, as singing was a comfort. He couldn't remember the words, but it was his way of assuaging the pain.
Too bad the nurses didn't believe me.

I wrote in my book:

            There was a call in to the doctor, who did not work on Wednesdays but would be in his office later. Were we not entitled to health care and visits by a doctor? How enervating this was! The RNs had no control without the authority of a doctor who did not even bother coming in to see my father. Finally, at ten a.m., we got an order for Dad to have injections of morphine, 2–5 mg every two hours, as needed. It was such a relief. They gave him 2 mg and he seemed more comfortable. Some workers thought he was not in pain, but I knew better. I knew him so well by now. 



Vegetative patients may be aware, newly-recruited researcher says

Brain researchers (from left) Dr. Damian Cruse, Beth Parkin MSC, and Dr. Adrian Owen at Cambridge University. Dr. Owen and his team will be researching recorded electrical impulses in the brain of comatose people showing they are actually aware and can respond by thinking of things. - Brain researchers (from left) Dr. Damian Cruse, Beth Parkin MSC, and Dr. Adrian Owen at Cambridge University. Dr. Owen and his team will be researching recorded electrical impulses in the brain of comatose people showing they are actually aware and can respond by thinking of things. | Randy Quan for The Globe and MailScience reporter, Anne McIlroy writes:

They sleep, sometimes snore, and regularly open their eyes, but patients in a vegetative state appear to be completely unaware of the world around them. Are they?
That’s the question that drives celebrated British researcher Adrian Owen, who is moving to Canada in December and bringing five of his colleagues with him. He has pioneered a new way to communicate with seemingly unconscious patients by putting them in a brain imager and asking them to think particular kinds of thoughts.

and...
We keep finding patients who aren’t what they appear to be,” Dr. Owen said. “They’ve been residing in nursing homes for years on end. But put them in a scanner and suddenly they can imagine playing tennis.”
Brain images from a patient who was deemed vegetative but was able to imagine playing tennis would be great, especially compared to a healthy control. She isn't answering questions, but merely showing that she is conscious by producing the two brain states when asked to imagine playing tennis and imagine moving from room to room in her house. Again, a control is included for comparison.

In Pictures: Awareness in the unconscious


Read more of this story here:

British researcher to use EEG to determine consciousness 

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