vegetative state


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Related to vegetative state: Minimally conscious state

Vegetative State

 

Definition

A coma-like state characterized by open eyes and the appearance of wakefulness is defined as vegetative.

Description

The vegetative state is a chronic or long-term condition. This condition differs from a persistent vegetative state (PVS, a state of coma that lacks both awareness and wakefulness) since patients have awakened from coma, but still have not regained awareness. In the vegetative state patients can open their eyelids occasionally and demonstrate sleep-wake cycles. They also completely lack cognitive function. The vegetative state is also called coma vigil.

Causes and symptoms

The vegetative state can be caused by:
  • cardiac arrest
  • prolonged and profound hypoglycemia (an abnormal and severe decrease in blood sugar)
  • carbon monoxide poisoning
  • head injury
  • brain hemorrhage
  • compression of the brainstem
  • tumors
  • bilateral hemispheric demyelination (a loss of nerve cells)
  • injury of the brain following infections (meningitis or encephalitis)
  • neurodegenerative diseases
  • anencephaly (an abnormality of the brain and skull)
  • diffuse nerve cell injury
Patients in a vegetative state apparently have functioning of a special area in the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS) responsible for sleep-wake cycles. The connections that integrate more complex abilities such as awareness are interrupted. Patients in the vegetative state can open and close eyes spontaneously. They may appear to track or follow objects with their eyes. Patients may chew and swallow food placed in the mouth. The vegetative patient does not respond to sound, hunger, or pain. Patients cannot obey verbal commands and lack local motor responses. Additionally these patients cannot talk in comprehendible terms and they may become noisy, restless, and hypermobile. These patients are in a state of arousal but completely lack awareness.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of vegetative state depends on the primary cause of brain dysfunction. A comprehensive history and neurological examination, neuroimaging studies, and chemical analysis of the blood are essential. Additionally, special tests such as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF, the fluid that bathes and nourishes the brain and spinal cord) analysis and electroencephalography, (EEG analyzes the electrical activity within the brain) may be indicated to establish a diagnosis.

Treatment

Treatment is directed to presenting symptoms and patient needs. Patients require constant monitoring and assistance with feeding, hydration hygiene, assisted movement (to help prevent ulcers and blood clots in the legs), and elimination of waste products.

Alternative treatment

There is no known alternative treatment for vegetative patients.

Prognosis

The prognosis is generally poor and the condition can persist chronically.

Prevention

There is no known prevention since this state can occur as a result of unavoidable situations such as an accident, tumor, and bleeding or genetic abnormality.

Key terms

Cognitive — The ability (or lack of) to think, learn, and memorize.
Hypermobility — Increased movement of joints.

Resources

Books

Goetz, Christopher G., et al, editors. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 1st ed. W. B. Saunders Company, 1999.
Goldman, Lee, et al. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 21st ed. W. B. Saunders Company, 2000.
Miller, Ronald D., et al, editors. Anesthesia. 5th ed. Churchill Livingstone, Inc., 2000.

vegetative state

a clinical condition in which there is complete absence of awareness of the self and the environment, accompanied by sleep-wake cycles, but with either partial or complete preservation of hypothalamic and brainstem autonomic functions; may be transient or permanent. There are multiple causes, all involving the brain, including traumatic and nontraumatic injuries, metabolic and degenerative disorders, and congenital malformations.

vegetative state

a physical condition in which a previously comatose patient continues to be unable to communicate or respond to stimuli, despite at times giving the appearance of wakefulness. The eyes may be open, but, because of senile brain disease, cerebral arteriosclerosis, or injury to the cerebral cortex, the patient remains immobile and must be fed and toileted, and all other physical needs must be attended to. It is important to speak to the patient, since it is not known whether the patient can hear.

vegetative state

Clinical medicine A state characterized by unresponsiveness to external stimuli Types Permanent VS, persistent VS

veg·e·ta·tive state

(vej'ĕ-tā-tiv stāt)
A clinical condition in which there is complete absence of awareness of the self and the environment, accompanied by sleep-wake cycles, but with either partial or complete preservation of hypothalamic and brainstem autonomic functions; may be transient or permanent. There are multiple causes, all involving the brain, including traumatic and nontraumatic injuries, metabolic and degenerative disorders, and congenital malformations.

vegetative state

See PERSISTENT VEGETATIVE STATE.

vegetative

1. concerned with growth and nutrition.
2. functioning involuntarily or unconsciously.
3. resting; denoting the portion of a cell cycle during which the cell is not replicating.
4. pertaining to plants.
5. asexual reproduction.

inherited vegetative dermatosis
see dermatosis vegetans.
vegetative nervous system
autonomic nervous system.
vegetative state
in neurological assessment, the animal is in a coma, but can be aroused. There is brainstem activity but cortical responses are absent.
References in periodicals archive ?
The 39-year-old from Ontario, Canada, had been in a vegetative state for 12 years after a car accident.
The clinical course and prognosis of a Vegetative State depends on its cause (Figure 3).
Part I of this Note describes relevant scientific studies, which have demonstrated the potential for communication with vegetative state and minimally conscious state patients.
Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and its commentary on those responses "provide a clear rejection of the claim of certain theologians that the provision of food and water for patients in the persistent vegetative state is not morally obligatory," said the Philadelphia-based National Catholic Bioethics Center in a Sept.
Lilly's story brings to mind one of the most remarkable and highly publicized cases of a person in a long-term vegetative state.
After she spent four years in a persistent vegetative state, her parents finally decided it was time to let go.
Herewith, just under that to explain several images in a recent Science paper by Adrian Owen and colleagues that demonstrated a clear response to environmental stimuli in the persistent vegetative state.
Terri Schiavo lived for 15 years in a persistent vegetative state.
Meanwhile, her eldest son, Robert, 29, has been in a persistent vegetative state for the past 11 years since a similar tragedy.
Still, no amount of ``Miami Vice'' jokes can explain the man's perpetual vegetative state.
Michael Schiavo's 41-year-old wife, Terri, died on March 31 after he won a seven-year battle with her parents to remove the feeding tube that had kept her alive since a heart attack left her in a persistent vegetative state 15 years ago.
The party had been in a persistent vegetative state ever since it was badly beaten up by Sinn Fein in the elections of 2001.