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Brain Dev. 2003 Dec;25(8):535-45.

Medical aspects of the minimally conscious state in children.

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Department of Pediatrics, Coleman Pavilion, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, 11175 Campus Street, Loma Linda, CA 92350, USA.


The minimally conscious state is a condition of severely altered consciousness in which minimal but definite behavioral evidence of self or environmental awareness is demonstrated. This must be established on a reproducible or sustained basis by one or more of four types of behaviors including simple command-following, gestural or verbal 'yes/no' responses, intelligible verbalizations, or purposeful behaviors. The minimally conscious state can occur in children and usually is due to acquired brain injuries (traumatic and non-traumatic), central nervous system degenerative and neurometabolic disorders or congenital or developmental disorders. It is assumed that the lower limit of the minimally conscious state occurs when patients emerge from a vegetative state. What remains uncertain is how we can assess the upper limits, that is the degree of improvement that indicates that an individual is no longer minimally conscious. It also is unknown if, when and to what extent children can emerge from a minimally conscious state and whether their prognosis is better than children who are vegetative. It is assumed that the minimally conscious state may become 'permanent' 12 months after traumatic brain injury and 3 months after non-traumatic injury although there have been no studies that have examined this issue. Medical and rehabilitative treatment of children in a minimally conscious state should be provided to maintain comfort, reduce complications, and optimize functional recovery.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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