Researchers have identified a critical distinction between brain injury patients who are in a coma and those who appear to be in a coma, but have a condition called cognitive motor dissociation or “hidden consciousness.” Patients with cognitive motor dissociation (CMD) can hear and understand but cannot physically respond to questions or other stimuli.
Identifying CMD patients can help prevent the premature discontinuation of care and could save lives. Additionally, it could help health care providers and families make better decisions regarding resources such as rehabilitation.
The researchers say 15 percent of patients who seem to be unresponsive could be experiencing CMD. However, most patients are not accurately diagnosed because doing so requires advanced physician training and advanced equipment.
Researchers are now working to develop more accessible and available screening tools by leveraging equipment already available in most hospitals.