A prospective study of nontraumatic coma: Methods and results in 310 patients
Neurological signs and outcome are compared in the first 310 patients from a continuing prospective study of coma not caused by trauma or drugs. Sixteen percent of the patients achieved an independent existence within a month; severe disability or the vegetative state developed in 25% of patients comatose for six hours and in 79% of those still in coma after a week. The chance of regaining an independent existence was greater in patients who, by one day, obeyed commands or moved the limbs appropriately in response to noxious stimuli or who had attained any of the following: orienting eye movements, normal responses to oculocephalic or oculovestibular stimulation, or normal muscle tone. Conversely, the chance of regaining an independent existence fell in patients who, after one day, had either extensor responses of the limbs or failed to move them in response to noxious stimuli or who lacked eye opening, pupillary reactions, corneal responses, or any eye movement in response to oculovestibular or oculocephalic stimulation. Beyond these general guidelines, numbers of patients with particular signs are presently too small for confident prediction of outcome.