A follow up study is reported of 100 consecutive unconscious patients admitted to an intensive care coma facility with a history of 30 days or more of unconsciousness of nontraumatic cause. Twenty recovered consciousness, all within 5 months of injury. 31 of the remaining patients died within 6 months following injury, while 49 continued unconscious until death. The mean life expectancy of these 49 was 26-34 months from that time. All 20 patients who recovered awareness continued to suffer from major disability. The prognosis for life or death and for recovery or not of consciousness was not significantly correlated with age or aetiology of the vegetative state. Among those who recovered consciousness, the younger patients showed somewhat better results in three parameters of function: locomotion, ADL and day-placement, but not in cognition, behaviour or speech accuracy and fluency. The overall results for these nontraumatic patients with postcomatose unawareness are clearly worse than those for patients with a similar period of unconsciousness following craniocerebral trauma.
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