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Brain Inj. 1996 Jun;10(6):421-37.

Motor profile of patients in minimally responsive and persistent vegetative states.

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Ecole de Réadaptation, Faculté de Médecine, Université de Montréal, Québec, Canada.


The purpose of this descriptive clinical study is to document the motor characteristics of patients in minimally responsive and persistent vegetative states. Twelve subjects, presenting a prolonged altered state of consciousness (x = 7.82 years, range 2-27), aged 27-78 years (x = 50, SD = 15.26) were evaluated, using standardized protocols, on the following variables: passive range of motion, observed movements, reflexes, tonus, postural status and reactions. The subjects' level of awareness and responsivity were measured with the Coma/Near Coma (CNC) scale at each of the three data collection sessions. While group CNC scores were stable over the three sessions, fluctuations in the level of awareness of individual subjects was recorded, confirming the heterogeneity of this clientele. Abnormal primitive reflexes were present in all subjects, with the flexor withdrawal (75%), the tonic labyrinthine (36%) and the body-on-body righting reaction (25%) being the most frequently observed. All subjects presented altered tonus, considerable posturing and varied degrees of reduced range of joint motion. A range of abnormal (e.g. chewing, clonus) and normal patterned (e.g. bridging, scratching) movement behaviours was recorded, but these did not translate into functional use, such as rolling. Collectively, the findings stress the complexity of the motor profile of patients in minimally responsive and vegetative states, and suggest the need for physiotherapists to become more actively involved in the evaluation and treatment of this clientele.

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