Although researchers have made remarkable advances in studying comas and other disorders of consciousness, doctors say a great deal remains unknown. When a doctor walks into an exam room, for example, the tools available for determining the prognosis of a patient in a coma are limited — and far from an exact science. In fact, there are more reliable markers of which patients will do poorly, the researchers said.
That gave the researchers an idea: Using one of the most well-known tests for poor outcomes, they decided to test the reverse. A shift of the brain from its usual midline position is associated with loss of consciousness and poor outcome. Geocadin and lead author Robert Kowalski, decided to measure whether patients whose brains shifted back toward midline had a better prognosis. Now, researchers think they’ve found a measurement that will help doctors assess whether a patient will emerge from a coma.