Differential time and related appearance of signs, indicating improvement in the state of consciousness in vegetative state traumatic brain injury (VS-TBI) patients after initiation of dopamine treatment

Brain Inj. 2004 Nov;18(11):1099-105. doi: 10.1080/02699050310001646206.


Objective: The goal of the study was to look for the response of treatment with increasing doses of dopaminergic medication on the recovery of vegetative state patients post-TBI.

Design: A prospective study of eight patients aged 25-50 years in vegetative state (VS) of mean duration of 104 days following traumatic brain injury (TBI) was performed by investigating changes of their state of consciousness while they were treated with levodopa/carbidopa.

Results: Initial improvement was observed in all patients within a mean of 13 days after onset of treatment. Seven patients recovered consciousness after a mean time of 31 days of treatment. The remaining patient showed only slight improvement to minimally conscious state. The sequence of symptoms leading to recovery was the same in all patients; the first to appear was moving a limb on a request, which appeared at a mean time of 13 days. Gradual increase of dose leads to the appearance of better-organized responses like reacting to more than one command, than opening the mouth and appearance of a reciprocal contact. The only side effect was visual hallucinations in one patient, which disappeared after decreasing the dosage.

Conclusions: Clinical awareness to the structured order of responses and to the effect of dosage can help clinicians in early assessment of response to dopaminergic treatment in VS patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Brain Injuries / drug therapy*
  • Carbidopa / therapeutic use*
  • Consciousness / drug effects
  • Dopamine Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Levodopa / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement / drug effects
  • Persistent Vegetative State / drug therapy*
  • Persistent Vegetative State / etiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Dopamine Agents
  • Levodopa
  • Carbidopa