Caring for and monitoring a person in a coma

Doctors assess a person's level of consciousness using a tool called the Glasgow Coma Scale . This level is monitored constantly for signs of improvement or deterioration. The Glasgow Coma Scale assesses three things:

  • eye opening a score of one means no eye opening, andfour means opens eyes spontaneously
  • verbal response to a command a score of onemeans no response, andfive means alert and talking
  • voluntary movements in response to a command a score of one means no response, and six means obeys commands

Most people in a coma will have a total score ofeight or less.A lower score means someone may have experienced more severe brain damage and could be less likely to recover.

In the short term, a person in a coma will normally be looked afterin an intensive care unit (ICU) . Treatment involves ensuring their condition is stable and their body functions, such as breathing and blood pressure, are supported while the underlying cause is treated.

In the longer term, healthcare staff will give supportive treatment on a hospital ward. This can involve providing nutrition, trying to prevent infections, moving the person regularly so they don't develop bedsores, and gently exercising their joints tostop thembecoming tight.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018