Psychogenic coma following upper endoscopy: a case report and review of the literature

Mil Med. 2008 May;173(5):509-12. doi: 10.7205/milmed.173.5.509.


Background: Failure to regain consciousness after general anesthesia has a multitude of life-threatening causes, including neurological injury, metabolic derangements, or drug effects. Failure to promptly recognize the cause of unconsciousness after anesthesia can result in significant patient morbidity or mortality, costly laboratory and radiographic evaluation, and physician anxiety. Rarely, patients fail to awaken after anesthesia due to a psychiatric cause. The early recognition of psychogenic coma can result in reduced iatrogenic complications, hospital cost, and physician anxiety.

Case: We present a case of a 28-year-old female who became unresponsive after general anesthesia for an upper endoscopy. Physical, laboratory, and radiographic examination after the procedure revealed no apparent organic cause for her failure to awaken. The patient spontaneously awoke after 16 hours without neurological deficit.

Discussion: We reviewed the literature and identified 10 previously reported cases of postanesthesia psychogenic coma. We have compared and contrasted our case with the 10 previous reports and propose bedside clues to assist the physician with diagnosing this unusual condition.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anesthetics, Intravenous / adverse effects*
  • Coma / chemically induced*
  • Coma / etiology
  • Coma / psychology
  • Endoscopy, Gastrointestinal / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Fentanyl / adverse effects*
  • Fundoplication
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Humans
  • Propofol / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors


  • Anesthetics, Intravenous
  • Fentanyl
  • Propofol