Breakthrough for patients in a near-vegetative state

This is encouraging:

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A man with severe brain injuries who spent six years in a near-vegetative state can now chew his food, watch a movie and talk with family thanks to a brain pacemaker that may change the way such patients are treated, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

The 38-year-old man is the first person in a minimally conscious state to be treated with deep-brain stimulation, a treatment that uses a pacemaker and two electrodes to send impulses into a part of the brain regulating consciousness.

His awakening may change the way doctors think about people with severe brain injuries, who are largely unresponsive but still have some level of consciousness. These patients typically spend the rest of their lives in nursing homes, with little efforts at rehabilitation and slim chance of recovery.

“This is a group of patients that are really, in many ways, forgotten about,” said Dr. Ali Rezai, director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Neurological Restoration.

“We have to do more research, obviously, but I think down the line it will change the way we are treating or even looking at people with severe brain injury.”


The man is the first of 12 patients who will undergo the treatment as part of a pilot study approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Experts believe about 100,000 to 300,000 patients with traumatic brain injury may be in a minimally conscious state. Most do not receive active therapy, but Rezai and colleagues think this may need to change.

“Judging from the results, we are very encouraged about the potential of this technology to improve the function of these brain-injured patients,” he said.

This is fantastic and shows that in spite of John Kerry and John Edwards not winning in 2004 and subsequently not being in the position to be able to fulfill their Dr. Feelgoode magic cure-all promises, that great strides can be made on the medical/therapeutic research front that can improve the lives of people whose chances of living even a remotely normal life look bleak.

Hat tip: Blue Crab Boulevard

Related Recommended Reading: Carrots Don’t Cry


Dr. Tabak couldn’t bear the term “vegetable” when it was first presented to him, and since the Terri Schiavo ruling, says that some in the medical community have shown an ulterior, ugly side regarding this appellation. “There is a medical agenda with this term” Dr. Tabak contends. “It’s very difficult to get emotionally involved with a vegetable. To have a relationship with a carrot goes against human nature.


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