Sometimes, head injuries and other issues can result in a coma or a persistent vegetative state (PVS). If this is the case, it can be devastating for a family. If you have found yourself in this situation, and your loved one is in a persistent vegetative state, you can learn more about this condition here. Understanding what your loved one is facing can help your family heal and can help you assist them through this difficult time. Here, you can learn more about PVS, how it differs from a coma, and how it is treated.
What is a Persistent Vegetative State?
A persistent vegetative state can sometimes occur after a person comes out of a coma. Patients in PVS lose cognitive abilities. This means that they can only perform some involuntary actions on their own. The lower brain stem in those with PVS functions, but they can only do certain things. Most of the things that a person with PVS can do are physical functions. This includes:
- Breathing without assistance
- Blinking another other eye movements
- Opening their eyes
- Moving their limbs
- Tracking objects with their eyes
Keep in mind that these functions are not voluntary or related to emotions. For example, a person with PVS will not laugh because they find something funny. Instead, this is an involuntary reaction in their body.
Most people with PVS do not have any sense of perception. This means that they cannot knowingly or purposefully respond to stimuli. Their physical responses are spontaneous and unpredictable. In some cases in which the patient’s consciousness is high, they may be able to respond to stimuli to a small degree. However, for most people, any physical function is involuntary.
Many different issues might cause a person to fall into a persistent vegetative state. Genetic disorders may cause this issue, or a head injury, such as from a car accident or head trauma, can lead to PVS. Additional problems that might cause PVS are:
- Drug abuse
- High intracranial pressure
- Thyroid disorders
- Ingestion of toxins
How is PVS Different Than a Coma?
PVS and comas are not the same thing, although for some they may have similar characteristics. A coma is defined as a debilitating lack of consciousness. Those with PVS are oftentimes conscious, even though their level of consciousness will be low. Both those in a coma and and persistent vegetative state might make involuntary movements. But, the major difference is the state of consciousness for these issues.
There is currently no cure for PVS. But, health professionals, caregivers, and family members can make sure that PVS patients are as comfortable and healthy as they can be. While there is no way to “wake” a person from PVS, some patients do regain consciousness. If consciousness can or will be regained, this will generally happen within the first year since falling into the persistent vegetative state. If consciousness is not regained in the first year, it is unlikely that the person will ever regain consciousness. But, if a patient does regain consciousness, various types of rehabilitation may help them in their recovery, depending on their individual situation. Children have a slightly higher chance of regaining consciousness than adults do.
PVS can be very difficult for a patient’s family. If your loved one is in a persistent vegetative state because they were injured in an accident, your family may be able to receive compensation to help with the healing process. For more information, you can contact me.