Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Minimally conscious patients can still feel pain

A study that has been published in the November edition of the Lancet Neurology suggests that minimally conscious patients can feel pain.

The article written by Dr Steven Laureys, Coma Science Group, Cyclotron Research Center and Department of Neurology, University of Liege, Belgium, and colleagues compared brain activity following electrical stimulation of the median nerve in five MCS patients (aged 18–74 years) with 15 controls (aged 19–64 years) and 15 PVS patients (aged 18–75 years). They looked at the areas of the brain responsible for pain sensation (the cortical pain matrix), including the thalamus, the primary somatosensory cortex and the insular, frontoparietal and anterior cingulate cortices.

The researchers found that none of these areas of the brain was less activated in MCS patients than in controls, and in MCS patients the cortical pain matrix was significantly more active than in PVS patients.

MCS patients also showed better ‘connectivity’ between different brain regions responsible for pain than did PVS patients.

The authors conclude: “These findings might be objective evidence of a potential pain perception capacity in patients in MCS, which supports the idea that these patients need painkilling treatment.”

This study should also concern us knowing that many experts believed that Terri Schiavo was not in a PVS state but rather in a Minimally Conscious State. This would mean that she suffered incredible pain before succumbing to death by dehydration.

Link to the article in Science Now:

Link to the article in On Medica news:

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