AskDefine | Define comatose

Dictionary Definition

comatose adj
1 relating to or associated with a coma; "comatose breathing"; "comatose state"
2 in a state of deep and usually prolonged unconsciousness; unable to respond to external stimuli; "a comatose patient"

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. resembling a coma: unconscious
  2. drowsy or lethargic

Related terms

  • coma
  • comatose sleep
  • comatose fever

See also

Extensive Definition

In medicine, a coma (from the Greek koma, meaning deep sleep) is a profound state of unconsciousness. A comatose patient cannot be awakened, fails to respond normally to pain or light, does not have sleep-wake cycles, and does not take voluntary actions. Coma may result from a variety of conditions, including intoxication, metabolic abnormalities, central nervous system diseases, acute neurologic injuries such as stroke, and hypoxia. It may also be deliberately induced by pharmaceutical agents in order to preserve higher brain function following another form of brain trauma, or to save the patient from extreme pain during healing of injuries or diseases. A coma may also result from immense head trauma caused by something like a car accident or a series of very severe concussions. The underlying cause of the coma is bilateral damage to the Reticular formation of the midbrain, which is important in regulating sleep.


The severity of coma impairment is categorized into several levels. Patients may or may not progress through these levels. In the first level, the brain responsiveness lessens, normal reflexes are lost, the patient no longer responds to pain and cannot hear.
Contrary to popular belief, a patient in a coma does not always lie still and quiet. They may move, talk, and perform other functions that may sometimes appear to be conscious acts but are not.
Two scales of measurement often used in TBI diagnosis to determine the level of coma are the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) and the Ranchos Los Amigos Scale (RLAS). The GCS is a simple 3 to 15-point scale (3 being the worst and 15 being that of a normal person) used by medical professionals to assess severity of neurologic trauma, and establish a prognosis. The RLAS is a more complex scale that has eight separate levels, and is often used in the first few weeks or months of coma while the patient is under closer observation, and when shifts between levels are more frequent.


Outcomes range from recovery to death. Comas generally last a few days to a few weeks. They rarely last more than 2 to 5 weeks but some have lasted as long as several years. After this time, some patients gradually come out of the coma, some progress to a vegetative state, and others do not make it. Some patients who have entered a vegetative state go on to regain a degree of awareness. Others remain in a vegetative state for years or even decades (the longest recorded period being 37 years).
The outcome for coma and vegetative state depends on the cause, location, severity and extent of neurological damage. A deeper coma alone does not necessarily mean a slimmer chance of recovery, because some people in deep coma recover well while others in a so-called milder coma sometimes fail to improve.
People may emerge from a coma with a combination of physical, intellectual and psychological difficulties that need special attention. Recovery usually occurs gradually — patients acquire more and more ability to respond. Some patients never progress beyond very basic responses, but many recover full awareness. Regaining consciousness is not instant: in the first days, patients are only awake for a few minutes, and duration of time awake gradually increases.
Predicted chances of recovery are variable owing to different techniques used to measure the extent of neurological damage. All the predictions are based on statistical rates with some level of chance for recovery present: a person with a low chance of recovery may still awaken. Time is the best general predictor of a chance of recovery: after 4 months of coma caused by brain damage, the chance of partial recovery is less than 15%, and the chance of full recovery is very low.
The most common cause of death for a person in a vegetative state is secondary infection such as pneumonia which can occur in patients who lie still for extended periods.
Occasionally people come out of coma after long periods of time. After 19 years in a minimally conscious state, Terry Wallis spontaneously began speaking and regained awareness of his surroundings.
A brain-damaged man, trapped in a coma-like state for six years, was brought back to consciousness in 2003 by doctors who planted electrodes deep inside his brain. The method, called deep-brain electrical stimulation (DBS) successfully roused communication, complex movement and eating ability in the 38-year-old American man who suffered a traumatic brain injury. His injuries left him in a minimally conscious state (MCS), a condition akin to a coma but characterized by occasional, but brief, evidence of environmental and self-awareness that coma patients lack.

See also


External links

comatose in Asturian: Coma (médicu)
comatose in Bosnian: Koma
comatose in Bulgarian: Кома
comatose in Danish: Koma
comatose in German: Koma
comatose in Estonian: Kooma
comatose in Spanish: Coma (medicina)
comatose in Esperanto: Komato
comatose in French: Coma
comatose in Croatian: Koma
comatose in Indonesian: Koma (medis)
comatose in Italian: Coma
comatose in Hebrew: תרדמת
comatose in Georgian: კომა
comatose in Lithuanian: Koma
comatose in Dutch: Coma (geneeskunde)
comatose in Japanese: 昏睡
comatose in Norwegian: Koma
comatose in Polish: Śpiączka
comatose in Portuguese: Coma
comatose in Russian: Кома (медицина)
comatose in Simple English: Coma
comatose in Slovak: Kóma
comatose in Serbian: Кома
comatose in Finnish: Kooma
comatose in Swedish: Koma
comatose in Chinese: 昏迷

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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