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Evaluation of


Extreme alteration in mental status
Similar to being unconscious

Markedly low GCS, 8 or less

Acute Delirium
Mental confusion
Clouded consciousness
Disorientation, hallucinations
Delusions, anxiety
Incoherent speech

GCS generally above 8

Stupor & Lethargy :Stupor definition A state of reduced or suspended sensibility. a daze Decreased responsiveness Similar to lethargy Reduced GCS. but above 8 .

Semicoma was defined as complete loss of consciousness with a response only at the reflex level (now obsolete) .

and normal respiratory control. the brainstem function returns with sleep–wake cycles.  .Vegetative state (coma vigil. eye opening in response to verbal stimuli. apallic syndrome) Patients who survive coma do not remain in this state for > 2–3 weeks. but develop a persistent unresponsive state in which sleep– wake cycles return.  After severe brain injury.

 .Locked in syndrome Patient is awake and alert.  Pontine lesions affect lateral eye movement and motor control  Lesions often spare vertical eye movements and blinking. but unable to move or speak.

Vegetative Locked-in .

The state of consciousness (arousal) The ascending RAS. from the lower border of the pons to the ventromedial thalamus  The cells of origin of this system occupy a paramedian area in the brainstem  .

or at least part of a hemisphere :Coma requires dysfunction of either the Pontine reticular activating system. or Bihemispheric cerebral dysfunction .Coma Pathophysiology :Consciousness requires An intact pontine reticular activating system An intact cerebral hemisphere.

Coma Pathophysiology Bilateral cerebral cortex dysfunction Toxic/metabolic Mass lesion. increased ICP Cerebral ischemia. infarct Brainstem suppression of reticular activating system (RAS) Ischemia. infarct .

patient in the emergent setting The physician should understand this involves an . prioritized approach . and treat the comatose .organized. evaluate. sequential.OBJECTIVES Primary Objective: The physician should be able to stabilize.

increased ICP or mass lesions Treatment of ICP to temporize until surgical .intervention is possible . dangerous metabolic causes of coma (hypoglycemia) Evaluation as to whether there is significant .Primary Objective Airway Breathing Circulation Treatment of rapidly progressive.

differential diagnosis of metabolic coma .Secondary Objectives The physician should understand and :recognize Coma Herniation syndromes Signs of supratentorial mass lesions Signs of subtentorial mass lesions The physician should be able to develop the .

Classifications Supratentorial lesions cause coma by either widespread bilateral disease. increased . or herniation Infratentorial lesions involve the RAS. usually without focal findings Psychogenic .intracranial pressure. usually with associated brainstem signs Metabolic coma causes diffuse hemispheric involvement and depression of RAS.

Supratentorial Mass Lesions Hematoma Neoplasm Abscess Contusion Vascular Accidents Diffuse Axonal Damage .

Supratentorial Mass Lesions Differential Characteristics Initiating signs usually of focal cerebral dysfunction Signs of dysfunction progress rostral to caudal Neurologic signs at any given time point to one anatomic area . brainstem Motor signs are often asymmetrical . midbrain.diencephalon.

Rostral Caudal Progression .

Rostral Caudal Progression .

Rostral Caudal Progression .

Infratentorial Lesions Cause coma by affecting reticular activating system in pons Brainstem nuclei and tracts usually involved with resultant focal brainstem findings .

Infratentorial Lesions Causes of Coma Neoplasm Vascular accidents Trauma Cerebellar hemorrhage Demyelinating disease Central pontine myelinolysis (rapid correction of hyponatremia .

usually present at“ onset of coma .Infratentorial Mass Lesions  Differential Characteristics History of preceding brainstem dysfunction or sudden onset of coma Localizing brainstem signs precede or accompany onset of coma and always include oculovestibular abnormality Cranial nerve palsies usually present Bizarre” respiratory patterns common.

Metabolic Coma Etiologies Respiratory Hypoxia Hypercarbia Electrolyte Hypoglycemia Hyponatremia Hypercalcemia Hepatic encephalopathy Severe renal failure Infectious Meningitis Encephalitis Toxins. drugs .

or hypoventilation is frequent . and seizures are common Acid-base imbalance with hyper. myoclonus.Metabolic Coma Differentiating Features Confusion and stupor commonly precede motor signs Motor sings are usually symmetrical Pupillary reactions are usually preserved Asterixis. tremor.

Coma Evaluation Procedure Assess the pt’s overall mental status Assess the ABCs Airway & gag reflex Breathing pattern and sufficiency Circulation adequacy and hypotension Assess the skin. breath (toxidromes) Detect posturing following stimulation .

Airway 2. Circulation 3. establishing IV access 4.Approaches to DD General examination: On arrival to ER immediate attention to: 1. Blood should be withdrawn: estimation of glucose # other biochemical parameters # drug screening .

Attention is then directed towards: 1. Severity of the coma 3. Paramedics 3. Bystanders particularly about the mode of onset  . Assessment of the patient 2. Diagnostic evaluation  All possible information from: 1. Relatives 2. Ambulance personnel 4.

 Clues obtained from the patient's 1.  Epilepsy DM. Trauma requires complete exposure and ‘log roll’ to examine the back Needle marks . 2. 2. 2. Previous medical history: 1. Drug history Clothing or Handbag Careful examination for 1.

endocarditis  . Bruises: traumatic causes  Dry Skin: DKA.Skin Injuries. Atropine  Moist skin: Hypoglycemic coma  Cherry-red: CO poisoning  Needle marks: drug addiction  Rashes: meningitis.

Odour of breath Acetone: DKA  Fetor Hepaticus: in hepatic coma  Urineferous odour: in uremic coma  Alcohol odour: in alcohol intoxication  .

Head rotation (oculocephalic reflex) or caloric stimulation of the labyrinths . pontine function by spontaneous and reflex eye movements and corneal responses.Examination of brainstem reflexes in coma Midbrain and third nerve function are tested by pupillary reaction to light. and medullary function by respiratory and pharyngeal responses. Reflex conjugate. horizontal eye movements are dependent on the medial longitudinal fasciculus (MLF) interconnecting the sixth and contralateral third nerve nuclei.


Abnormal breathing patterns in coma Cheynes .Stokes Central Neurogenic Midbrain Apneustic Pons Ataxic Medulla ARAS .

Cheyne-Stocks Central Neurogenic Hyperventilation Apneustic Cluster Ataxic .

often with cerebral disease.Respiration  Cheyne–Stokes respiration: (hyperpnoea alternates with apneas) is commonly found in comatose patients. but is relatively non-specific. . regular respiration is also common in comatose patients and is often found with pneumonia or acidosis. Rapid.

 Central neurogenic hyperventilation Brainstem tegmentum (mostly tumors): ↑ PO2. ↓ PCO2. and Respiratory alkalosis in the absence of any evidence of pulmonary disease Sometimes complicates hepatic encephalopathy .

 Apneustic

Brainstem lesions Pons may also
give with a pause at full inspiration
 Ataxic:
Medullary lesions: irregular
respiration with random deep and
shallow breaths

 If

head trauma is suspected, the
examination must await adequate
stabilization of the neck.
 Glasgow Coma Scale: the severity of
coma is essential for subsequent
 Following this, particular attention
should be paid to brainstem and motor

Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS)
Best eye
response (E)

4 Eyes opening

Best verbal
response (V)

Best motor
response (M)

5 Oriented

6 Obeys commands

4 Confused

5 Localizes to pain

3 Inappropriate words

4 Withdraws from pain

2 Incomprehensible

3 Flexion in response to



1 None

2 Extension to pain


3 Eye opening to

2 Eye opening in
response to pain

1 No eye opening

1 No motor response

12  Minor. . GCS 9 . with GCS ≤ 8  Moderate. comas are classified as:  Severe. GCS ≥ 13.Generally.

 The tendon reflexes are less useful.  The plantar responses are usually extensor. but asymmetry is again important.Motor function Particular attention should be directed towards asymmetry of tone or movement.  The motor response to painful stimuli should be assessed carefully (part of GCS)  .

asymmetry is important  . Rubbing of the sternum should be avoided (bruising and distress to the relatives)  Patients may localize or exhibit a variety of responses.Painful stimuli: supraorbital nerve pressure and nail-bed pressure.

Decorticate posturing in comatose patient Lesion above the red nucleus Lower limbs extend. upper limbs flex following stimulus .

Decerebrate posturing in comatose patient .

so extensors hyperactive Lat vest nuclei involved .Decerebrate posturing in comatose patient Upper and lower limbs extend following stimulus Normal inhibition by cortex on the extensor facilitation part of ret form is missing.

injury than decerebrate posturing Comatose patients who go from decerebrate to decorticate have) ascending progression of impaired area( a better prognosis than those who go from decorticate to .decerebrate (descending progression of impaired area) Descending impairment will be fatal if medullary respiratory and cardiovascular centers are damaged .Clinical Value of Decorticate/Decerebrate Signs Decorticate posturing indicates a higher level of brainstem .

Detect abnormal reflexes Corneal reflex Babinski (Chadduck) .

Head and neck  1. 2. The ears and nose: haemorrhage and leakage of CSF The fundi: papilloedema or subhyaloid or retinal haemorrhages .   The head Evidence of injury Skull should be palpated for depressed fractures.

Positive Kernig's sign : a meningitis or SAH. the cervical spine should be gently flexed Neck stiffness may occur: ↑ ICP incipient tonsillar herniation . If established as safe to do so.Neck: In the presence of trauma to the head. associated trauma to the neck should be assumed until proven otherwise.


and opiates will constrict them .preserved light reflex Atropine.Examine the pupils Size and equality Light reactivity. and cerebral anoxia tend to dilate the pupils. . consensual response most metabolic encephalopathies give small pupils with .

dilated pupil. fixed to all stimuli. often irregular and unequal. Cranial n III distal to the nucleus: Ipsilateral fixed.Examine the pupils Structural lesions are more commonly associated with pupillary asymmetry and with loss of light reflex. mediumsized pupils. do not react to light Midbrain nuclear lesions: medium-sized pupils. regular. Midbrain tectal lesions : round. .

may be pinpoint.  Occluded carotid artery causing cerebral infarction: Pupil on that side is often small  . {in pontine hge. although reactive} assess the light response using a magnifying glass  Lateral medullary lesion: ipsilateral Horner's syndrome.Examine the pupils Pons (Tegmental lesions) : bilaterally small pupils.

Diencephalons Small. Fixed small. pinpoint In hge reactive . reactive Midbrain Medium-sized. Fixed Pons Ipsilateral dilated. fixed Dilated. .

Ocular movements The position of the eyes at rest  Presence of spontaneous eye movement  The reflex responses to oculocephalic and oculovestibular maneuvers  In diffuse cerebral disturbance but intact brainstem function. slow roving eye movements can be observed  Frontal lobe lesion may cause deviation of the eyes towards the side of the lesion  .

 Lateral pontine lesion can cause conjugate deviation to the opposite side  Midbrain lesion Conjugate deviation downwards  Structural brainstem lesion disconjugate ocular deviation .

brainstem involvement in coma . suspect . If eyes follow movement of head to side. the response is positive and indicates an intact pons mediating a normal reflex .Doll’s Eye Maneuver/Oculocephalic reflex rotating the head from side to side and observing the position of the eyes Caution with suspected c-spine injury If the eyes move conjugately in the opposite direction to that of head movement.

there is no tympanic rupture A normal response in a conscious patient is the development of nystagmus with the quick phase away from the stimulated side This requires intact cerebropontine connections If eyes move towards cold water. having confirmed that . intact brainstem despite coma If no eye movement towards stimulation.Cold Caloric Examination/Oculovestibular reflex tested by the installation of ice-cold water into the external auditory meatus. suspect brainstem injury .

Looked-in. ammonia IV D50. flumazenil Brainstem N or other Focal signs Y CT Y Unconscious N Diffuse brain dysfunction metabolic/ infectious Focal lesions Tumor.Approaches to DD Unresponsive ABCs Glucose. NM paralysis LP± CT . Tox. ABG. Mg. ICH/SAH/ infarction Pseudo-Coma Psychogenic. Ca. Lytes. narcan.

cold-water immersion Risk of hypothermia in the elderly with inadequately heated rooms. exacerbated by immobility.Temperature Hypothermia  Hypopituitarism. Hypothyroidism  Chlorpromazine  Exposure to low temperature environments. .

Hypoxia and hypercarbia are common. (a low-reading rectal thermometer is required). C/P: generalized rigidity and muscle fasciculation but true shivering may be absent. .   1. 2. Treatment: Gradual warming is necessary May require peritoneal dialysis with warm fluids.

bed sores.Hyperthermia (febrile Coma) Infective: encephalitis. subarachnoid hge  Metabolic: thyrotoxic.  . Addisonian crisis  Toxic: belladonna. pneumonia. salicylate poisoning  Sun stroke. heat stroke  Coma with 2ry infection: UTI. meningitis  Vascular: pontine.

and death . prolonged exertion in a hot environment  Initial ↑ in body temperature with profuse sweating followed by  hyperpyrexia. convulsions. an abrupt cessation of sweating. and then  rapid onset of coma.Hyperthermia or heat stroke Loss of thermoregulation dt.

‘Ecstasy’ abuse—involving a loss of the thirst reaction in individuals engaged in prolonged dancing.This may be exacerbated by certain drugs.  . Other causes  Tetanus  Pontine hge  Lesions in the floor of the third ventricle  Neuroleptic malignant syndrome  Malignant hyperpyrexia with anaesthetics.

 Cerebellar ataxia.  Dementia (rare) .Heat stroke neurological sequelae  Paraparesis.

uremia  Blood Pressure High: hypertensive encephalopathy  Low: Addisonian crisis. barbiturate  .Pulse Bradycardia: brain tumors. myxedema. opiates. alcohol.  Tachycardia: hyperthyroidism.

Signs of lateralization Unequal pupils  Deviation of the eyes to one side  Facial asymmetry  Turning of the head to one side  Unilateral hypo-hypertonia  Asymmetric deep reflexes  Unilateral extensor plantar response (Babinski)  Unilateral focal or Jacksonian fits  .

Causes of COMA .

swelling from infarct.CNS causes of coma Cerebrovascular disease is a frequent cause of coma. extensive brainstem infarction) . or more rarely.  Mechanism: Impairment of perfusion of the RAS  With hypotension  Brainstem herniation ( parenchymal hge.

Subarachnoid haemorrhage Loss of consciousness is common with SAH  only about 1/2 of patients recover from the initial effects of the haemorrhage.  Causes of coma: 1. Acute ↑ICP and 2. vasospasms. hyponatraemia . Later.

2. . 2. early decompression can be lifesaving. Cerebellar haemorrhage or infarct with Subsequent oedema Direct brainstem compression. from Rupture into the ventricles or subsequent herniation and brainstem compression. May cause a rapid decline in consciousness.Parenchymal haemorrhage 1.  1.

Hypotension   1. The causes: syncope in younger patients cardiac disease in older patients. The critical blood flow in humans required to maintain effective cerebral activity is about 20 ml/100 g/min and any fall below this leads rapidly to cerebral insufficiency. . 2.

and cerebral oedema (failure of autoregulation) .Hypertensive encephalopathy  Now rare with better control of blood pressure. arteriolar thrombosis. microinfarction. grossly raised blood pressure.  C/P: impaired consciousness. papilloedema.  Neuropathologically: fibrinoid necrosis.

abscesses. brainstem herniation→ distortion of the RAS. and the speed of development. subdural. extradural haematoma.  C/P: depends on normal variation in the tentorial aperture. . haemorrhage. site of lesion.Raised intracranial pressure  Mass effects: tumours.

such as the frontal and occipital lobes.Herniation and loss of consciousness Lesions located deeply.  Rate of growth: slowly growing tumours may achieve a substantial size and distortion of cerebral structure without impairment of consciousness. in contrast to small rapidly expanding lesions  . or in the temporal lobes > located at a distance. laterally.

 Central herniation involves downward displacement of the upper brainstem  Uncal herniation in which the medial temporal lobe herniates through the tentorium .

due to compression of the III nerve. and asymmetric motor signs. As coma deepens. Upward herniation can occur with posterior fossa masses  .Central herniation: small pupils are followed by midpoint pupils. the opposite pupil loses the light reflex and may constrict briefly before enlarging.  Rarely.  Uncal herniation: a unilateral dilated pupil. and irregular respiration gives way to hyperventilation as coma deepens.

head injury accounts for 1/2 of all trauma deaths  A major cause of patients presenting with coma.  A history is usually available and. if not.Head injury The leading cause of death below the age of 45. signs of injury such as bruising of the scalp or skull fracture lead one to the diagnosis  .

may have resulted in a subsequent head injury .  Epileptic seizure. evidence of head injury need not necessarily imply that this is the cause. Alcohol on the breath provides a direct clue to a cause of coma.

 Rotational forces of the brain cause surface cortical contusions and even lacerations.  Subdural bleeding due to tearing of veins . Damage can be diffuse or focal. most obvious frontotemporally because of the irregular sphenoidal wing and orbital roof.

 Mild degrees of axonal injury also occur with concussion and brief loss of consciousness  .Diffuse axonal injury is now seen as the major consequence of head injury and associated coma.

as they are readily treatable surgically. brain oedema. and vascular dilatation.Secondary damage can occur from parenchymal haemorrhage.  . all of which will lead to ↑ICP→ ↓perfusion pressure. which can be accentuated by systemic hypoxia and blood loss.  Subdural and extradural haematomata may cause impairment of consciousness following apparent recovery are important to diagnose.

 Meningitis: the onset is usually subacute.  Direct infections of the CNS. as with meningitis and encephalitis. associated with fever and neck stiffness.Infections Systemic infections may result in coma as an event secondary to metabolic and vascular disturbance or seizure activity. can all be associated with coma. intense headache. meningococcal meningitis may be rapid in onset  .

 Encephalitis: usually subacute. precedes definitive diagnosis.Diagnosis is confirmed by identifying the changes in the CSF.  . from which it may be possible to isolate the causative organism. imperative and may precede diagnostic confirmation. and often associated with fever and/or seizures. leading to coma within a matter of hours Treatment with aciclovir. however.  Prompt treatment of acute meningitis is. herpes simplex encephalitis may be explosive at onset.

characteristically there is no pleocytosis .  Associated with 2–10 % of cases of infection with Plasmodium falciparum.Parasitic infections Cerebral malaria  25 % mortality rate.  C/P: acute profound mental obtundation or psychosis. leading to coma with extensor plantar responses  CSF: may show increased protein.

Steroids. are now contraindicated as they prolong the coma.Hypoglycaemia and lactic acidosis. which may contribute to the coma.  Treatment: intravenous quinine.  . which were at one time prescribed widely for oedema.

 In some patients this can be severe.  Lumbar puncture in such patients is usually normal or only associated with a mildly elevated protein level.Septic patients  Commonly develop an encephalopathy. ranging from diffuse theta through to triphasic waves and suppression or burst-suppression .  EEG is valuable and is abnormal. with a prolonged coma.

there is the potential for complete reversibility  Presence of coma should not prevent an aggressive approach to management of such patients including. for example. Although there is a high mortality. haemodialysis to deal with acute renal failure .

Metabolic causes of coma Hepatic coma The patient is known to be suffering from liver failure  May occur in patients with chronic liver failure and portosystemic shunting (In these cases jaundice may be absent) .

although it can be sudden. certain diuretics. sedatives. results in sudden loss of a maintained posture. a -ve myoclonus jerk. with an initial confusional state often bilateral asterixis or flapping tremor. analgesics. infection.  Asterixis.Precipitation: GIT hge. elicited by asking the subject to maintain extension at the wrist  . high-protein food or ammonium compounds  Subacute onset. general anaesthesia.


As coma supervenes. EEG with paroxysms of bilaterally synchronous slow waves in the delta range or with occasional triphasic waves  . there is often decerebrate and/or decorticate posturing with extensor plantar responses  Diagnosis: signs of liver disease hepatic fetor. and biochemical evidence of disturbed liver function.

and indeed treatments to reduce ammonia  endogenous benzodiazepine ligands may contribute to the hepatic coma. flumazenil. benzodiazepine antagonist. in hepatic coma would support this view  .The disturbance of consciousness due to raised ammonia.

Stage I Personality Changes Stage II Lethergy Flapping tremor Muscle twitches Stage III Nagy Abusive Violent Stage IV Coma .

Renal coma May occur in acute or chronic renal failure  Raised blood urea alone cannot be responsible for the loss of consciousness but the  Metabolic acidosis. electrolyte disturbances and Water intoxication due to fluid retention may be responsible  .

dyspnoea. and insomnia  Later muscular twitchings. drowsiness or restlessness.Early symptoms Headache. and generalized convulsions are likely to precede the coma. mental confusion. asterixis. myoclonus.  ↑ blood urea or creatinine establishes the diagnosis (DD hypertensive encephalopathy)  . vomiting.

Dialysis disequilibrium syndrome 1. but it can be fatal 2. self-limiting disorder. Rapid osmotic shift of water into the brain is the main problem  . More common in children and during rapid changes in blood solutes. Is a temporary.Dialysis may develop iatrogenic causes of impaired consciousness.

terminally. 2. mental changes. vomiting. Progressive dysarthria. and focal neurological signs 3. . asterixis. there may be coma 3. It can occur during or just after dialysis treatment. nausea. myoclonus. and restlessness before drowsiness and marked somnolence. progression to seizures. but resolves in 1 or 2 days Dialysis encephalopathy dialysis dementia syndrome 1. 4.accompanied by headache.

before preventive action was taken. 5. EEG: paroxysmal bursts of irregular.4. generalized spike and wave activity. 6. has been attributed to the neurotoxic effects of aluminium: aluminium-containing antacids and a high aluminium content in the water Reached its peak prevalence in the mid 1970s. .

Disturbance of glucose metabolism Diabetic Ketoacidosis Subacute onset with late development of coma. shallow breathing. together with ketonuria.  Secondary lactic acidosis (DD severe anoxia or methyl alcohol or paraldehyde poisoning)  Patients are dehydrated.  Marked ketoacidosis. rapid. occasionally acetone on the breath.  The plantar responses are usually flexor until coma supervenes. usually above 40 mmol/l.  .

burns.  It may be induced by drugs.  Coma is more common than with ketoacidosis. acute pancreatitis.  Profound cellular dehydration.Hyperglycaemic non-ketotic diabetic coma More commonly seen in the elderly. risk of developing cerebral venous thrombosis. which may contribute to the disturbance of consciousness. and heat stroke  .

 . and then inattention and irritability progressing to stupor.  Symptoms appear with blood sugars of less than 2.  May present with a focal onset (hemiparesis)  Plantar responses are frequently extensor.5 mmol/l  Initially autonomic: sweating and pallor.  Patients may be hypothermic. coma.Hypoglycaemic coma Much more rapid onset. and frequent seizures.

and Addison's disease . hypopituitarism.Diagnosis of Hypoglycemic Coma:  The patient is known to be taking insulin.  Spontaneous hypoglycaemia with insulinomas are usually diagnosed late.  May also be precipitated by hepatic disease. alcohol intake.  There may be a long history of intermittent symptoms and in relation to fasting or exercise.

the cerebral cortex. and particularly the hippocampus and basal ganglia are affected  Dementia and a cerebellar ataxia are the clinical sequelae of inadequately treated hypoglycaemia. together with thiamine  Unless treated promptly. hypoglycaemia results in irreversible brain damage.Treatment:  Glucose. Cerebellar Purkinje cells. .

hypothermia.Other endocrine causes of coma Pituitary failure Rare cause of coma and is the result of hypoglycaemia. and impaired adrenocortical function  History of fatigue. which often precipitate impaired consciousness.  . hypotension. occasionally depression and loss of libido  Patients are very sensitive to infections and to sedative drugs.

 Pituitary apoplexy Acute onset of hypopituitarism occurs with haemorrhagic infarction in preexisting tumours. meningism. patients present with impaired consciousness. and opthalmoplegia .

 These and cold weather. poor concentration.  With progression there is increasing somnolence and. with headaches.Hypothyroidism Mental symptoms are common. particularly in the elderly.  . may precipitate myxoedemic coma. patients become sensitive to drugs and infections. this is frequently diagnosed as depression. and apathy.

Myxoedemic coma has a high mortality and is associated with hypoglycaemia and hyponatraemia.  low-reading thermometer to detect hypothermia  Treatment: support of ventilation and blood pressure and cautious correction of the thyroid deficiency with tri-iodothyronine  .

restlessness. with depression leading to apathy.Hyperthyroidism Mild mental symptoms: anxiety.reduced attention. confusion. and coma without any signs of hypermetabolism  . which can progress to coma.  ‘Thyroid storm’ with agitated delirium. may have bulbar paralysis  Apathetic form of thyrotoxicosis: particularly the elderly.

 Undiagnosed Addison's disease is frequently associated with behavioural changes and fatigue.Adrenocortical failure Mental changes are common in Addison's disease and secondary hypoadrenalism. hypoglycaemia.  Infection or trauma may precipitate coma and associated hypotension. and dehydration  .

 Acute adrenal failure due to HIV infection can occur  . papilloedema  Friedrichsen–Waterhouse syndrome acute adrenal failure due to meningococcal septicaemia a cause of sudden coma in infants.Tendon reflexes are often absent  ↑ ICP.

apathy. with tetany and sensory disturbance  It can be associated with ↑ICP and papilloedema . often with headache. stupor and even coma. If severe.Disturbance of Ca and Mag metabolism Hypercalcaemia  Mental confusion.  Causes: metastatic bone disease. including multiple myeloma Hypocalcaemia  Primarily affects the peripheral nervous system.

Hypomagnesaemia  Inadequate intake and prolonged parenteral feeding. overzealous replacement of mag and its use (in eclampsia) can give rise to mag intoxication. with major CNS depression. but can give rise to a similar clinical picture. Hypermagnesaemia  Renal insuf.  Overshadowed by other metabolic disturbances. including hypocalcaemia.. .

drug abuse. and alcohol intoxication accounting for up to 30 % of those presenting through accident and emergency departments.Drugs Poisoning.  .  80 % require only simple observation in their management.

 1. 2. Narcotic overdoses (heroin) Pinpoint pupils Shallow respirations . The coma is easily reversible with naloxone . 3. 3. 1. needle marks. 2. The most commonly drugs in suicide attempts are : Benzodiazepines Paracetamol antidepressants.

Solvent abuse and glue sniffing should be considered in the undiagnosed patient with coma. 2. Drugs may also result in disturbed consciousness due to secondary metabolic derangement the acidosis associated with ethylene glycol and carbon monoxide poisoning .  1.

. >350 mg/dl may prove fatal. The smell of alcohol on the breath. at higher levels.  Intoxicated are at increased risk of hypothermia and of head injury can be the cause of coma.  At low plasma concentrations of alcohol. coma ensues. mental changes. flushed face. and low blood pressure. rapid pulse.Alcohol intoxication  Apparent from the history.


Miscellaneous causes of coma

Common cause of coma, with a period of
unconsciousness following a single
generalized seizure commonly lasting
between 30 and 60 minutes.
 Following status epilepticus, there may be a
prolonged period of coma. History, trauma to
the tongue or inside of the mouth.
 Seizures secondary to metabolic
disturbances may have a longer period of

Extensive neurological disease

 severe

end-stage multiple sclerosis.
 Prion disease may lead to coma over a
short period of 6–8 weeks, but this is
following a progressive course of
widespread neurological disturbance.

 In

the second half of pregnancy and
represents a failure of autoregulation,
with raised blood pressure.
 Neuropathologically: there are ring
haemorrhages around occluded small
vessels with fibrinoid deposits.

 Management: control of convulsions and raised blood pressure. Postpartum complications of pregnancy cerebral angiitis and venous sinus thrombosis. and coma. Parental magnesium is commonly employed.CP: seizures. may also lead to coma  . may give rise to hypermagnesaemia. cortical blindness.

calcium. osmolality.  Blood should also be stored for a subsequent drug screen if needed  . electrolytes. and blood gases. liver function.Investigation of coma At presentation blood will be taken for determination of glucose.

or indeed all with persisting coma. a broad distinction between a metabolic cause. with preserved pupillary responses. or a structural cause of coma is likely to have been established  Although most patients with coma will require CT scanning.Following the clinical examination. clearly this is of greater urgency when a structural lesion is suspected  .

as a matter of clinical urgency.In the absence of focal signs. a lumbar puncture may need to be performed before scanning.  In other situations. lumbar puncture should be delayed until after the brain scan because of the risk of precipitating a pressure cone secondary to a cerebral mass lesion  . but with evidence of meningitis.

detailed investigations of systemic disease will be directed by the clinical examination. and is clearly of value in assessing the patient who has been admitted following an unsuspected seizure  .  The EEG is of value in identifying the occasional patient with subclinical status epilepticus.All patients will require chest radiography and ECG.

 An isoelectric EEG may occur with druginduced comas.  . but otherwise indicates severe cerebral damage.Fast activity is commonly found with drug overdose and slow wave abnormalities with metabolic and anoxic coma.

and external carotid arteries. . High-grade stenosis of the internal carotid artery.CT angiogram of the common. was identified in this patient . which may be associated with either cerebral emboli or flow-limiting ischemia. internal.

Pathophysiology of ischemic stroke Diagram illustrating the three major mechanisms that underlie ischemic stroke: (1) occlusion of an intracranial vessel by an embolus that arises at a distant site (e.g. (2) in situ thrombosis of an intracranial vessel. (3) hypoperfusion caused by flowlimiting stenosis of a major extracranial (e. internal carotid) or intracranial vessel.. often affecting the large intracranial vessels. often producing "watershed" ischemia . typically affecting the small penetrating arteries that arise from the major intracranial arteries.g. cardiogenic sources such as atrial fibrillation or artery-toartery emboli from carotid atherosclerotic plaque)..


Management of the unconscious patient Treatment of the underlying cause  Maintenance of normal physiology: respiration. requiring an oral airway as a minimum  . circulation. and nutrition  Patient should be nursed on his or her side without a pillow  Attention will clearly need to be paid to the airway.

Intubation. if coma is prolonged. if coma persists. frequent changing of position. avoid urine and stool soiling and good care of bed sores  . adequate nutrition is required.  Care of Skin. special mattress. tracheostomy  Retention or incontinence of urine will require catheterization  Intravenous fluid is necessary and.

coma carries a serious prognosis.  This is dependent to a large extent on the underlying cause.Prognosis in coma In general.  Coma due to depressant drugs carries an excellent prognosis provided that resuscitative and supportive measures are available and no anoxia has been sustained  Metabolic causes. apart from anoxia. carry a better prognosis than structural lesions and head injury  .

Length of coma and increasing age are of poor prognostic significance. the absence of pupillary light and corneal reflexes 6 hours after the onset of coma is very unlikely to be associated with survival  .  Brainstem reflexes early in the coma are an important predictor of outcome  in general.

 . although a partial return of cognition. the ‘locked-in’ syndrome also carries a poor prognosis. has been reported very rarely.  Although unassociated with coma.The chronic vegetative state usually carries a uniformly poor prognosis. or even restoration to partial independence. with only rare recoveries reported.