Send to

Choose Destination
Clin Neurophysiol. 1999 Feb;110(2):205-13.

Etiology, neurologic correlations, and prognosis in alpha coma.

Author information

Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.



To determine the factors affecting prognosis in alpha coma (AC).


Retrospective review of 36 study patients, 36 control coma patients matched for age and etiology, and meta-analysis of 335 cases in the world literature.


Principal causes were cardiorespiratory arrest (CRA) (21 patients); infection, metabolic dysfunction, head trauma (3 each); and drugs, stroke and hypoxia (2 each). Outcome was predicated by EEG reactivity to noxious stimuli. Fourteen of the 15 patients with reactive EEGs, had measurable outcome, 8 awoke - all but two had etiologies other than CRA. Fourteen of 19 patients without EEG reactivity died; two had support discontinued and 3 awoke. Following CRA, 16/21 patients died and 3 had support discontinued. Only 3 patients made a good recovery - all with toxic or metabolic etiologies. Literature meta-analysis of 335 cases showed that overall, AC carried a poor prognosis (76% died). CRA (226 cases) had an 88% mortality; strokes (29 cases), a 90% mortality; hypoxia without cardiac arrest (28 cases), a 61% mortality; drug-induced AC (25 cases), an 8% mortality.


Although the cause of AC largely predicts outcome, EEG reactivity in AC predicted survival: most patients with reactivity awoke; most of those without, died. Few survivors had meaningful recovery.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center