Wachcoma patients: help with laser beams

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Laser beams are said to stimulate vegetative coma patients

Doctors in Berlin want to help awakening coma patients with laser beams. A first study on this has now been presented at a congress. The procedure is about improving the condition, not about healing. The first results of the study are "a glimmer of hope", even if "it is not about healing, but an improvement of the condition".

Infrared laser into the brain With the help of laser beams, Berlin doctors want to help awakened coma patients to become more conscious. At a congress for neurorehabilitation, the team led by Professor Stefan Hesse from the Medical Park Clinic in Berlin presented a first study on this. The process, in which patients are stimulated through the brain shell with a near-infrared laser, is still in its infancy. But Hesse said: "It is a glimmer of hope." It is not about healing, but an improvement in condition.

Wax coma eyes open The researchers reported that most patients experienced longer periods of wakefulness and more eye contact. However, Hesse emphasized that laser stimulation does not change the maximum need for care and immobility. The brainstem reflexes are still intact in a coma patient, their eyes are open and they have a sleep and wake rhythm. Some patients can follow simple instructions when they are awake, such as sticking out their tongues, moving their hands or eyes. This level of awareness is recorded on scales.

Procedure already tested on stroke patients In the USA, the near infrared laser procedure has already been successfully tested on stroke patients. The bundled light penetrates through the brain shell and stimulates the energy production of the nerve cells in the forehead brain, which is important for raising awareness. In Berlin, the patients were irradiated daily for ten minutes for four to six weeks. “The procedure is still in its infancy, but very interesting,” says neurologist Prof. Manfred Holzgraefe from the Asklepios Clinic for Neurological Rehabilitation in Seesen. This would give victims and their relatives the opportunity to communicate again, at least to a small extent. If necessary, a patient could even make statements about "how to proceed with him."

Further study is to follow "Today we know that after severe traumatic brain injuries there are not only black and white, but also many shades of gray," explained Hesse. And he started with these shades of gray. The next step is to be followed by a study in which doctors and relatives do not know whether the laser was actually turned on to check whether there is actually an effect. "It will be exciting if we can use the procedure in early rehab at some point," says Hesse. Because then the recovery prospects are higher. For example, coma patients who have had cardiac arrest with a reduced oxygen supply have a window of three to six months for this, and a traumatic brain injury of one to two years.

Causes of vigilant coma The most common causes of vigilant coma are traumatic brain injury, heart attack, sugar shock, cerebral hemorrhage (s), stroke, and accidents when the brain is injured. Children are affected just as much as teenagers, adults or seniors. Around 10,000 people are affected nationwide. Triggers are brain injuries, in which the damage can affect different areas. While the outer cerebral cortex, which is responsible for processing stimuli and perception, is injured in some cases, the midbrain may be the damaged area in other patients. Damage to the brainstem, the oldest area of ​​the brain, can also lead to patients falling into a coma. (ad)

Image: Dieter Schütz / pixelio.de

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Video: Wachkoma - Der lange Weg zurück ins Leben. WDR Doku


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