Written by Shirley Parker
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The topic of coma has been much in the news in recent months. Coma is a subject of intense interest, debate and controversy whenever a sensational case, such as that of Terry Schiavo, hits the headlines. It doesn't matter if it's the first time a particular dispute (to put it mildly) has erupted, or if a deep family wound has reopened. Such public fighting creates a breach that never closes over in this world, and likely, not in the next either.

Coma is pronounced when a person is deeply unconscious and unable to respond to anything in the environment. Even painful stimuli bring no response. However, many laypersons believe that the medical profession doesn't know quite enough about coma to be deliberately inflicting unneeded, repeated pain on anyone.

Trauma or serious illness with complications can put a person into a coma. The comatose patient is definitely still alive but cannot move or react. A victim may eventually come out of a coma into a persistent vegetative state. At this stage, their eyes may open; they may laugh or cry; and they may move a hand or a toe, for example. They also follow what we consider to be normal sleeping and waking patterns.

Treatment of Coma Patients

Generally speaking--and there are many exceptions--a coma generally lasts for two to four weeks, while a persistent vegetative state lasts for months or years. Beyond the initial emergency treatment procedures, nutrition must be provided. Nurses have to worry about pneumonia and other infections. They also have to prevent bedsores, which can cause very serious complications. Qualified personnel perform physical therapy to prevent permanent muscle contractions, as well as deformed joints and bones. The overall prognosis must depend on the type and location of the injury or overall illness, and what caused it.

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