Is it righteous or not to shut down the machines that keep alive the patients in comas? Even if this sort of situations occurs frequently, tangible scientific evidence to estimate the chances of a patient to wake up is lacking. Luckily, a promising technique can predict the future of the patients in comas.
Published in the journal Lancet Neurology, the study focused on the coma that follows a cardiac arrest which is known to damage the brain more than other coma types.
More than 200 adult coma patients were tested for 7 data in centers in France, Italy, and Belgium.
The researchers used a special MRI technique to evaluate the state of the part of the brain that contains the neuronal connections.
The scientists found a way to predict if a patient will wake up from a coma or not
Scientists did a mapping of the white matter using the MRI equipment studied the captured images to see if the neural connections were absent or still present. To study the state of these connections, the researchers focused on the behavior of water molecules along the axon (the extension of the neuronal body).
“When the communication is normal, the water molecules all went in the same direction along the axon, otherwise their movements were disorganized,” said Steven Laureys, a researcher at the Coma Science Group, in Liege (Belgium), and one of the study’s authors.
By measuring the degree of the disorganization of this movement, researchers set thresholds to reduce uncertainty about patient outcomes.
“Our results are excellent and, thanks to these new criteria, we can predict with great reliability which patients will die or remain in a vegetative state”, explained Steven Laureys.
This technique is superior to all other tests used to date and the results now require to be confirmed by large-scale trials.