Coma Prognosis & Resuscitation

  • Patient or Population: Patients who are in a coma or have been resuscitated
  • Intervention or Indicator: Using clinical signs to predict clinical neurological outcomes
  • Comparison or Control: Past methods of predicting clinical neurological outcomes
  • Outcome: Increased accuracy of prediciting neurological recovery following coma states

1: ACP J Club. 2004 Sep-Oct;141(2):49.

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Comment on:

Review: 4 clinical signs are precise and accurate for predicting poor outcome in postcardiac arrest coma.

Ballew KA.

University of Virgina, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.

Publication Types:

  • Comment

PMID: 15341469 [PubMed]


2: JAMA. 2004 Feb 18;291(7):870-9.

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Library Article

Comment in:


Is this patient dead, vegetative, or severely neurologically impaired? Assessing outcome for comatose survivors of cardiac arrest.

Booth CM, Boone RH, Tomlinson G, Detsky AS.

Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

CONTEXT: Most survivors of cardiac arrest are comatose after resuscitation, and meaningful neurological recovery occurs in a small proportion of cases. Treatment can be lengthy, expensive, and often difficult for families and caregivers. Physical examination is potentially useful in this clinical scenario, and the information obtained may help physicians and families make accurate decisions about treatment and/or withdrawal of care. OBJECTIVE: To determine the precision and accuracy of the clinical examination in predicting poor outcome in post-cardiac arrest coma. DATA SOURCES AND STUDY SELECTION: We searched MEDLINE for English-language articles (1966-2003) using the terms coma, cardiac arrest, prognosis, physical examination, sensitivity and specificity, and observer variation. Other sources came from bibliographies of retrieved articles and physical examination textbooks. Studies were included if they assessed the precision and accuracy of the clinical examination in prognosis of post-cardiac arrest coma in adults. Eleven studies, involving 1914 patients, met our inclusion criteria. DATA EXTRACTION: Two authors independently reviewed each study to determine eligibility, abstract data, and classify methodological quality using predetermined criteria. Disagreement was resolved by consensus. DATA SYNTHESIS: Summary likelihood ratios (LRs) were calculated from random effects models. Five clinical signs were found to strongly predict death or poor neurological outcome: absent corneal reflexes at 24 hours (LR, 12.9; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.0-68.7), absent pupillary response at 24 hours (LR, 10.2; 95% CI, 1.8-48.6), absent withdrawal response to pain at 24 hours (LR, 4.7; 95% CI, 2.2-9.8), no motor response at 24 hours (LR, 4.9; 95% CI, 1.6-13.0), and no motor response at 72 hours (LR, 9.2; 95% CI, 2.1-49.4). The proportion of individuals' dying or having a poor neurological outcome was calculated by pooling the outcome data from the 11 studies (n = 1914) and used as an estimate of the pretest probability of poor outcome. The random effects estimate of poor outcome was 77% (95% CI, 72%-80%). The highest LR increases the pretest probability of 77% to a posttest probability of 97% (95% CI, 87%-100%). No clinical findings were found to have LRs that strongly predicted good neurological outcome. CONCLUSIONS: Simple physical examination maneuvers strongly predict death or poor outcome in comatose survivors of cardiac arrest. The most useful signs occur at 24 hours after cardiac arrest, and earlier prognosis should not be made by clinical examination alone. These data provide prognostic information, rather than treatment recommendations, which must be made on an individual basis incorporating many other variables.

Publication Types:

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review


PMID: 14970067 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


3: J Neurol. 1997 Sep;244(9):556-61.

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Library Article

The prognostic significance of coma-rating, duration of anoxia and cardiopulmonary resuscitation in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

Berek K, Schinnerl A, Traweger C, Lechleitner P, Baubin M, Aichner F.

Department of Neurology, University Hospital, Innsbruck, Austria.

Early determination of outcome after successful prehospital cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a common problem with great ethical, economic, social, and legal consequences. We prospectively investigated 112 adult patients who had been resuscitated after out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (CA). The aim of our study was to determine whether coma rating by the mobile intensive care unit (MICU) is a useful tool for outcome prediction. For neurological assessment the Innsbruck Coma Scale (ICS) was used initially and after return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) or 20-30 min after the start of CPR, before any sedating drugs were given. The duration of anoxia and CPR were determined with the automatically recorded emergency call protocol of the dispatch centre and the protocol of the MICU. For estimation of cerebral outcome at the time of discharge from hospital we used the Glasgow-Pittsburgh Cerebral Performance Categories (CPC). Restoration of spontaneous circulation was achieved in 42 patients (37%), and 15 (13%) were discharged from hospital. The first coma rating performed immediately at the time of arrival on scene had no significant prognostic value for prediction of neurological outcome (P = 0.204) and survival (P = 0.103). The second coma rating (performed after ROSC or 20-30 min after the start of CPR), however, demonstrated a significant correlation with neurological outcome (P = 0.0000) and survival (P = 0.0000), a correlation which was comparable to both duration of anoxia and duration of CPR. In patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest prognostic information could be obtained with the ICS as early as 20-30 min after the start of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Publication Types:

  • Clinical Trial


PMID: 9352452 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


4: Respir Care. 1995 May;40(5):515-24; discussion 24-7.

Library Article

Resuscitation: when is enough, enough?

Hamill RJ.

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA.

Almost half of patients respond acutely to resuscitation but most die within the first several days after arrest. The incidence of survival to discharge from the hospital after cardiopulmonary arrest is about 15%; one third of those surviving have evidence of neurologic deficits. Although some prognostic variables are useful in determining which patients are most likely to die prior to discharge from the hospital, each patient needs to be evaluated on an individual basis and the various risk factors weighed carefully. As additional data accumulate, we may well be more effective at deciding which patients are more likely to benefit from CPR so that we can more judiciously apply this therapeutic modality. A number of studies have identified factors that contribute to poor outcome. Patients over 70 years of age usually fare poorly after CPR, but this is more a reflection of the number of coexisting diagnoses rather than years. Although initial survival may not be different from younger patients, fewer elderly patients live to discharge and more are likely to have neurologic sequelae. Concurrent diagnoses such as sepsis, AIDS, gastrointestinal bleeding, renal failure, cancer, and central nervous system disease have a universally poor response to CPR. If defibrillation occurs more than 6 minutes after arrest or on the general ward or if the resuscitative attempt lasts longer than 15 minutes, mortality is greater than 95%. If CPR continues for more than 30 minutes, there are no survivors. A low exhaled CO2 concentration (< 2%) during cardiac massage, asystole or EMD as the first identified rhythm, and recurrent arrest also carry a poor prognosis. On the other hand, at the time of arrest or during the immediate postarrest period, poor neurologic status is a less helpful predictor. The absence of spontaneous respiration is the only variable at the time of admission after out-of-hospital arrest that is particularly ominous. There is no evidence to suggest that the absence of spontaneous respiration implies any better prognosis for patients arresting in the hospital. Coma, hypoxic myoclonus, and absent reflexes, while not useful immediately following arrest, are of greater prognostic significance 48 hours later. Only 5% of patients who are unconscious 48 hours after arrest will have a full neurologic recovery. The Glasgow Coma Scale has also been used for prognostication.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

PMID: 10142887 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]