Anyone who has ever experienced the nightmare of having a loved one in a coma knows how excruciatingly painful it can be. The person you love is still alive but completely unable to communicate.
New research from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) may bring new hope for the recovery of comatose patients.
Awakening comatose patients: a long battle
Research into methods of "bringing back" comatose patients was able to awaken a patient for the first time in 2016. The scientist, Martin Monti, it's the same.
At the time, however, Monti believed he was "a bit lucky". Now, Monti and his team have achieved the same result with two patients in a coma, with a long-term "minimally conscious state".
“This new finding is much more significant, because these chronic patients were far less likely to recover spontaneously than the acute patient we treated in 2016,” says Monti.
Any recovery typically occurs slowly over several months and more typically years, not days and weeks as we show today.Martin Monti, professor of psychology and neurosurgery at UCLA and senior co-author of the new study.
"It is very unlikely that such results are simply due to spontaneous recovery."
Treatment for patients in a coma consists of a technique called low intensity focused ultrasound.
Ultrasound has been used in everything from the prevention of dementia to the eradication of cancer cells. This new approach uses sound stimulation to excite neurons in the thalamus of comatose patients, and is proving very powerful.
Out of three comatose patients who received treatment, two had positive results.
It should be noted that patients who responded well were not able to function exactly as their pre-clinical state; however, they were able to respond to external stimuli and perform small tasks. Nodding, dropping and catching a ball, writing with a pen on paper, recognizing objects.
Both comatose patients were also able to understand speech, a sign of fundamental progress.
"What's remarkable is that both patients showed significant responses within days of surgery," Monti said.
“This is what we were hoping for, but it's amazing to see it with your own eyes. Seeing two of our three patients who had been in a coma improve significantly within days of treatment is extremely promising.
The new method for awakening comatose patients has been described as "Jumpstarting".