Misdiagnosing the persistent vegetative state

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7062.943c (Published 12 October 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:943

Persistent vegetative state should not be diagnosed until 12 months from onset of coma

  1. Derick T Wade, Consultant in neurological disability
  1. Rivermead Rehabilitation Centre, Oxford OX1 4XD

    EDITOR,—Keith Andrews and colleagues draw attention to an important issue—namely, the correct diagnosis of patients who remain apparently unaware months after sustaining acute brain damage.1 Some caution is needed in interpreting their data.

    The authors use the term “persistent vegetative state” loosely. Although a persistent vegetative state cannot be diagnosed until at least 12 months have passed from the onset of coma,2 nine of the 16 patients whom the authors consider to have been misdiagnosed and whose details they give had …

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