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MRI Can Help ID Patients Who Will Recover From Coma

But study was small and more research is needed before technique can be used to guide patient care

THURSDAY, Nov. 12, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans may help identify coma patients who are most likely to regain consciousness, according to a study published online Nov. 11 in Neurology.

The research included 27 coma patients with severe brain injuries and 14 healthy people of the same age. All of the participants underwent functional MRI scans to assess the connections between areas of the brain involved in regulating consciousness. The coma patients underwent brain scans after all sedative drugs were out of their bodies. Three months after their brain injuries, four had regained consciousness, while the others had minimal consciousness or were still in a coma.

The brain scans showed that coordination of activity between two particular areas of the brain (posterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex) was much different between the patients who later recovered from a coma and those who didn’t. The coma patients who recovered had the same coordination between these two brain areas as in healthy people.

Further research is needed before these results might be used to help guide care for coma patients. “We need to do more studies with larger numbers of patients to substantiate these results, but the findings are promising,” study author Stein Silva, M.D., Ph.D., of INSERM (French National Research Institute) in Toulouse, said in a journal news release. “We could be able to predict better who is more likely to recover from a coma and eventually develop innovative networks-based personalized treatments for people with brain injuries.”

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