What Happens To Your Body in a Coma?

What Happens To Your Body in a Coma?

We’ve all seen countless tv shows where a
patient falls into a coma- the weeping family members try everything possible to resuscitate
their loved one, from standing by their side and reading them stories to playing their
favorite music, all in hopes of ‘breaking through’. Unfortunately, comas are medically complicated
phenomenon with different causes and effects, and despite all our advances in modern medicine,
we remain mostly in the dark about how to successfully treat one. But what exactly happens to your body when
you’re in a coma? First we have to be clear that comas are very
different from sleep, despite the fact that the origin of the word comes from the greek
for Koma, or deep sleep. Comas are not sleep however and are instead
various forms of unconsciousness that render a person unable to respond to any external
stimuli. You can play the loudest, heaviest death metal
in the world right next to someone who’s comatose and you won’t succeed in doing anything except
really annoying the neighbors. Likewise you can even physically hurt people
in a coma and they will remain completely oblivious and unresponsive- in times not too
distant past this was sometimes used as ‘treatment’, with doctors trying to shock their victims
back into consciousness. Everything was tried from exposing parts of
the body to open flames to severely dropping the body’s temperature with ice, to even bloodletting
from the head directly. One treatment even included wholly emptying
the stomach, we guess because the doctors though that if a patient got hungry enough
the body would force them to wake up. Or maybe they really were just throwing everything
including the kitchen sink at the problem, which we’re sure was also tried. Comas can occur as a result of serious trauma
or as a deliberate medical treatment by doctors. They are typically brought on by traumatic
head injury, and it’s believed that it’s the brain’s way of shutting down so it can focus
on repairing itself. They can also however be brought on by stroke,
a brain tumor, drug or alcohol abuse, or an illness such as diabetes or an infection. Most of the time a coma only lasts a few weeks
though, but past this period the patient can enter a persistent vegetative state that severely
lessens their chances of ever coming back out of one. Sometimes people who recover may end up with
major or minor disabilities as well, to include speech impediments, mental retardation, or
problem coordinating body movements. Medically induced comas meanwhile are used
when patients are at high risk of brain injury either due to physical trauma, drug overdoses,
or diseases. The purpose is to protect and control the
pressure dynamics of the brain, as during injury or disease the brain can swell up and
push against the skull which can starve some parts of the brain of oxygen. A medically induced coma reduces the electrical
activity and slows down the brain’s metabolism, minimizing swelling and inflammation. There are several different types of comas,
and they each differ from each other. A vegetative state means that a person’s body
can make physical movements such as grunts or yawns, but has no reaction to actual stimuli. The movements are purely involuntary, and
sadly for loved ones seeing the body of someone you care about suddenly yawn can induce false
hope. The truth is the brain remains shut down and
operating only at the most basic levels. Catatonia on the other hand is a complete
lack of any movement or response of any kind- this is exactly as it sounds, and often catatonic
patients require help from machines to breathe and possibly even pump the heart. Brain death means that the higher brain functions
are completely destroyed, and the brain only carries out autonomic functions such as breathing
and swallowing which are hardwired into our brain’s programming. A brain dead person has in effect no chance
for recovery, and typically brain results from extreme physical trauma or severe illness. A stupor is technically not a form of a coma
but is sometimes referred to as one. This is a case of one being able to be awakened,
but only with considerable effort. People in stupors can often fall right back
into a deep unconsciousness, but more often than not will recover on their own- the danger
is if they dip so deep into unconsciousness that their autonomic functions are impaired. While in a coma your brain shows zero awareness
or cognitive processing, and is completely unable to respond to outside stimuli. It is in effect as if the brain has been completely
turned off, or is being rebooted like a computer. Except for in the most severe cases, the body
will continue to breathe and the heart will continue to pump, and if you block the airway
patients can even cough as the body attempts to recover airflow. But that’s about it, as the brain seem to
be unable to communicate between the brain stem and the cerebrum which controls cognitive
consciousness though a process called the reticular activating system. Any doctor will admit that there’s a great
deal we simply don’t know about the coma state, and in 2013 doctors treating an epileptic
man in a coma were puzzled to find brain activity in the hippocampus- these ridges on the floor
of each lateral ventricle of the brain are though to be the center for emotion, memory,
and the autonomic nervous system, meaning it’s quite possible that the unconscious person
was experiencing memories but little else. The doctors replicated their findings in cats
which were placed under general anesthetic, and the knowledge they gleamed may help make
some comas reversible. While they don’t believe that this means a
coma patient which this type of mental activity, or any other, has any sort of awareness or
ability to communicate about their condition, it is strong evidence for the fact that the
brain does in fact take actions to try and repair or protect itself while in a comatose
state. The rest of the body typically remains unaffected
by the coma state though, with functions such as breathing and heart beating being so hardwired
into our passive nervous system that we do these things literally without thought. People in a coma state though will require
IV’s through which they are fed and kept hydrated, and are intubated with breathing tubes to
maintain a clear airway- though some coma patients do retain the reflexes to swallow. The most common issue facing coma patients
though is muscle atrophy, which comes from simply not using your muscles for prolonged
periods of time. You don’t need to be in a coma for this to
happen though, if you’ve ever been a couch potato for a few weeks at a time then you’ve
likely experienced the severe weakness of muscles that have atrophied from a lack of
exercise- even just getting up for a walk once a day can keep your muscles from wasting
away. Bedsores are another serious concern for coma
patients. Also known as pressure ulcers, these are common
for people who are bedridden or immobile, or perhaps unable to sense pain. These happen on areas of the skin that are
under pressure from lying in bed, sitting down, or wearing a tight cast for a very long
time. They develop when the blood supply to the
skin is cut off for more than two to three hours, and as the skin dies the bedsore starts
as a red, painful area which will eventually turn purple. If not treated the skin will split open and
the area runs the risk of infection. They can also become very deep if undetected
or untreated, extending into the muscle or even the bone, and they’re very slow to heal. Sometimes bedsore can take years to heal,
and may require surgery. The most common places bedsores form are on
the buttocks area, the heels of the feet, shoulder blades, back of the head, and backs
and sides of the knees. If left untreated they can grow grotesquely
large- if you have the stomach for it go ahead and do a google image search for untreated
bedsores, we did, and we deeply regret it. The good news about comas is that despite
what medical dramas may tell you most people recover within a few weeks to at least some
level of their previous mental capacity. However new research and techniques is continually
improving our knowledge of comas and how to treat them, and in 2017 a 35 year old man
who’d been in a vegetative state since he was 20 was entered into a state doctors called
“minimal consciousness by stimulating the vagus nerve. This is one of the largest nerves in the body
and goes directly to the heart, lungs, upper digestive tract and other organs. While not “awake”, doctors were able to
have him follow objects with his eyes, and even prompted looks of surprise on his face,
though sadly he was unable to talk or show any sort of higher brain function. Doctors warn though that while it’s a big
step forward, it’s far from a conclusive one because comas are as radically different from
each other as those who suffer them, and what works on one individual may sadly not work
on others. How long would you give your family because
asking them to just pull the plug on you?And if you liked this video, check out what happens
to your body when you fall into a volcano! Oh, and how about clicking that like button? Bye!

100 Replies to “What Happens To Your Body in a Coma?”

  1. 6:00 this is the worst.. I had that after my first surgery / cast.. Still have a nasty infection scar on my leg years later

  2. Is it only me who thought of the game driver San Francisco (the game is set in a coma) the whole game is in his head and wakes up at the end

  3. My grandma has been in one for 2 years she got it because of a brain tumor and everytime I go see her I cant do nothing but cry thinking she might never wake up but i hope she does and i can give her a big hug

  4. Dude in a coma: *yawns*
    Loved one: doc! Hes alive!
    Doctor: sorry, hes still in a coma, its a vegetative state
    Dude in a coma: SIKE!

  5. I was in a coma for 6 months and it took me three years until I was able to walk and all that stuff but if I ever was in a coma again I told my friends and family just pull the plug immeditely because I don't want to ever go through all that hard work to become normal again

  6. I looked up bed sores…I dont see why you guys regret it. Then again, I do want to be a surgeon and I'm trying to get a tough stomach

  7. This video about being in a coma was very interesting, it's hard to say though how long you would wait before pulling the plug on a loved one

  8. I was in coma for about 11 days due to doctor’s mess and when I woke up I told my self yesterday I had an operation but when I asked the date from nurse she told me 11th Dec 2017 and my operation was on 30th November 2017 Really don’t know that what was happened to me in between

  9. My dad was in a coma for almost a month and it took him years to get back where he is but the body can really repair itself so if you guys have a family member in the coma just have hope and remember that they can come back

  10. Doctor: Okay You Have 1 minute left to Live

    Me: Plays Hammer To Fall

    Doctor: Wutt?

    Me: Realizing that i Made the wrong joke

    Doctor: Oof

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