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Patients Who Recover From Coma But Cannot Communicate Feel Pain

Date:
October 6, 2008
Source:
University of Liège
Summary:
Do patients who survive a severe brain injury but fail to recover speech or non-verbal communication perceive pain? After their remarkable publication where they showed that a patient in a vegetative state in reality was conscious, scientists in Belgium were able to tackle the very difficult issue of pain perception in coma survivors.

The brain activation in pain in patients in a state of minimal consciousness is comparable to that observed in healthy subjects. The yellow circle shows the earlier cingulate cortex which is crucial in the perception of emotional pain.
Credit: Copyright Steven Laureys, Coma Science Group, Université de Liège

Do patients who survive a severe brain injury but fail to recover speech or non-verbal communication perceive pain? After their remarkable publication where they showed that a patient in a vegetative state in reality was conscious, scientists at the University of Liège (ULg) were able to tackle the very difficult issue of pain perception in coma survivors.

The Coma Science Group of the Cyclotron Research Centre and Neurology Department of the ULg used PET scanning to measure minimally conscious and vegetative patients’ brain activation in response to noxious stimulation.

After comparing results obtained in the different patient groups with those in healthy volunteers who could communicate it felt painful they concluded that minimally conscious patients must feel pain despite being unable to tell their environment. Hence, these patients should receive pain-killers, the authors concluded.

This study has major ethical and therapeutical consequences also with regard to end-of-life decisions in these challenging but vulnerable patient populations.

The study was led by Pr Steven Laureys from the Coma Science Group of the University of Liège and will be published in October in the journal Lancet Neurology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Liège. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Adrian M. Owen, Martin R. Coleman, Melanie Boly, Matthew H. Davis, Steven Laureys, and John D. Pickard. Detecting Awareness in the Vegetative State. Science, 2006; 313 (5792): 1402 DOI: 10.1126/science.1130197
  2. Mélanie Boly, Marie-Elisabeth Faymonville, Caroline Schankers, Philippe Peigneux, Bernard Lambermont, Christophe Philipps, Patrizio Lancellotti, André Luxen, Maurice Lamy, Gustave Moonen, Pierre Maquet, Steven Laureys. Perception of pain in the minimally conscious state with PET activation: an observational study. The Lancet Neurology, Published online October 6, 2008 DOI: 10.1016/S1474-4422(08)70220-5

Cite This Page:

University of Liège. "Patients Who Recover From Coma But Cannot Communicate Feel Pain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081006093039.htm>.
University of Liège. (2008, October 6). Patients Who Recover From Coma But Cannot Communicate Feel Pain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081006093039.htm
University of Liège. "Patients Who Recover From Coma But Cannot Communicate Feel Pain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081006093039.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

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