Long-term outcomes of chronic minimally conscious and vegetative states

Neurology. 2010 Jul 20;75(3):246-52. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181e8e8df. Epub 2010 Jun 16.


Objective: The present retrospective cohort study compares the long-term functional outcome, improvement or deterioration, of patients considered in a vegetative state (VS) or a minimally conscious state (MCS) 1 year after coma onset, then yearly for up to 5 years.

Methods: We reviewed the clinical courses of 12 patients in VS and 39 in MCS. The outcomes were assessed at 2, 3, 4, and 5 years after injury using the 5 categories of the Glasgow Outcome Scale plus an additional category for patients in MCS. A logistic regression analysis investigated the relationships between each outcome and 10 predictor variables. Four of these variables were auditory evoked potentials recorded at the early stage of coma.

Results: None of the patients in VS improved during the follow-up period: 1 was lost to follow-up, 9 died, and 2 remained in VS. Among patients in MCS, 3 were lost to follow-up, 14 died, 9 remained in MCS, and 13 emerged from MCS with severe disabilities. VS, age >39 years, and bilateral absence of cortical components of middle-latency auditory evoked potentials were significantly associated with deterioration.

Conclusions: In contrast to patients in VS, a third of patients in MCS improved more than 1 year after coma onset. This emphasizes the need to define reliable boundaries between VS and MCS using repeated clinical evaluations and all imaging and neurophysiologic tools available today.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Consciousness / physiology*
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Persistent Vegetative State / physiopathology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Recovery of Function / physiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult