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J Clin Neurophysiol. 2000 Sep;17(5):473-85.

The EEG in coma.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Neurological Sciences, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.


The EEG allows insight into thalamocortical function in comatose patients when this is inaccessible clinically. A single EEG can help with broad diagnostic categorization whereas continuous or serial EEG provides monitoring for unstable and potentially treatable conditions and for monitoring the effects of therapy. The EEG plays a supplemental role in establishing the prognosis in disease states that are capable of causing neuronal death. The most prevalent and problematic of these conditions involves survivors of cardiac arrest who are initially in coma with intact brainstem reflexes. In such patients single EEGs are of 100% specificity for no possibility of recovery of consciousness only for essentially complete generalized suppression (<10 microV) after the first day of the arrest. Several other generalized patterns, including less marked suppression, burst-suppression, epileptiform activity, periodic complexes, and alpha-theta coma patterns, usually but not invariably indicate a poor outcome. Serial EEGs, continuous raw and automated "trending," testing of reactivity, and the inclusion of multiple variables hold promise for an improved role in the prognostic determination in these patients.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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