Life expectancy of children in a persistent vegetative state

Pediatr Neurol. 1994 Feb;10(1):27-33. doi: 10.1016/0887-8994(94)90063-9.


The persistent vegetative state (PVS) is a state of wakeful unconsciousness occurring in adults and children. Despite preservation of vegetative functions, PVS patients have a shortened life-span, although accurate information concerning this issue remains limited. The survival of children in PVS was examined to determine whether age, etiology of the vegetative state, or type of residence in which the patient lived affected the estimated survival. The data of 155,851 developmentally disabled California state residents were reviewed using the Client Development Evaluation Report (CDER). Criteria from the CDER were selected to define the vegetative state and included: lack of interaction with peers; absence of auditory, visual, and expressive or receptive language function; no hand or arm use; inability to eat, sit, roll over, or lift head; and no bowel or bladder control. There were 847 patients who met these criteria on the initial and follow-up CDERs. A product limit survival model was used to develop survival curves and to calculate the median survival time for patients grouped by age, etiology, and type of residence. Median survival (yrs) for patients who remained in PVS for the following age groups was: < 1 yr: 2.6, 1 < 2 yrs: 4.2, 2-6 yrs: 5.2, 7-18 yrs: 7.0, > or = 19 yrs: 9.9. Median survival based on etiology varied from 3.0 to 8.6 years; no consistent relationship existed between etiology and duration of survival. Survival (yrs) for patients younger than age 18 years based on type of residence included: own home: 4.5, institutions: 5.2, skilled nursing facility/private hospital: 3.2, and other community care facilities: 3.7.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / classification
  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / etiology
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / mortality
  • Brain Injuries / etiology
  • Brain Injuries / mortality
  • Cause of Death*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coma / etiology
  • Coma / mortality*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intellectual Disability / etiology
  • Intellectual Disability / mortality
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Male
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Residential Facilities
  • Survival Analysis