On Wednesday, August 8, the American Academy of Neurology published a new guideline for managing disorders of consciousness (people in a minimally conscious state) in the online journal Neurology. The development of the new guideline was partially funded by ACL’s National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), and two of its co-authors are grantees in NIDILRR’s TBI Model Systems program.
The guideline provides recommendations to improve diagnosis, health outcomes, and care of people with these disorders. About four in 10 people who are thought to be unconscious are actually aware.
Consciousness is a state of being awake and aware of one’s self and surroundings. A person with a disorder of consciousness has trouble being awake, or being aware or both. People in minimally conscious state have behaviors that show they are conscious, such as tracking people with their eyes or following an instruction to open their mouths, but the behaviors are often subtle and inconsistent. A disorder of consciousness can be caused by a severe brain injury resulting from trauma, such as a fall, a car accident or sports injury. It can also be caused by a disease or illness, such as stroke, heart attack or brain bleed.
People with prolonged disorders of consciousness after a brain injury need ongoing specialized health care provided by experts in diagnosing and treating these disorders, the guideline states.
The new guideline is freely available to the public for download. Companion materials are also available, including summaries of the guideline for family and caregivers and clinicians.
More information about the guideline can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.