The view of ward with comatose patient

New nerve treatment partially revives man in long-term vegetative state

The therapy could be a medical game-changer

A 35-year-old man who has been in a vegetative state for 15 years has regained a level of consciousness due to a pioneering new therapy.

The French man was injured in a car accident a decade-and-a-half ago, and doctors chose him for an experimental therapy where they implanted a nerve stimulator into his chest.

Within a month he could respond to simple instructions, turn his head and follow a moving object with his eyes. Experts are excited by the revelations and the ways this treatment could help patients in the future, but stress it must be repeated.

Angela Sirigu, from the Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod, in Lyon, said it had chosen a really challenging patient to try the treatment out on. Which means the man’s progress is significant.  

‘Brain plasticity and brain repair are still possible even when hope seems to have vanished,’ Ms Sirigu said. ‘After this case report, we should consider testing larger populations of patients.

‘This treatment can be important for minimally conscious patients by giving them more chances to communicate with the external world.’

Dr Vladimir Litvak, from The Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, at University College London’s Institute of Neurology, said: ‘This might be an interesting new lead, but I would suggest to be cautious about these results until they are reproduced in more patients.

‘It is hard to know based on a single case how likely this treatment is to work in the general patient population.’


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