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Baylor St. Luke’s Top Neuroscientist at Forefront of International Effort to Cure Coma


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HOUSTON (September 1, 2022) - The top neuroscientist at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center is among a group of international experts providing first of its kind data to offer insight into the prevalence of coma with the goal of finding a cure.

The study shows that approximately 31 in 100,000 people are in a coma, and each year, there are around 258 in 100,000 people who enter a coma because of acute brain injury.

“The new data show the frequency of coma is comparable to other major conditions that we often encounter in intensive care such as sepsis and traumatic brain injury,” said Dr. Chethen Venkatasubba Rao, medical director of the Neuroscience Critical Care Unit at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center and section head of Vascular Neurology and Neurocritical Care at Baylor College of Medicine. “Until now we had no figures to demonstrate this.”

Conducted jointly by 18 neuroscientists from the United States and Europe involved in the Curing Coma campaign, the study provides the first epidemiological data on coma in the U.S. and United Kingdom.

“In contrast to neurological conditions for which epidemiological data are available, coma results from many different brain injuries or medical disease,” said Daniel Kondziella, a neurologist from Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital, in Copenhagen, Denmark. “Coma is not readily identifiable with conventional methods that utilize electronic medical records, insurance billing codes or clinical surveillance data.”

The study used a crowdsourcing methodology consisting primarily of the families of coma patients. 

“Crowdsourcing methodology allows representative sampling of participants from the U.K. and the U.S. populations based on official census data,’’ said Dr. Rao. “Moreover, family members are acutely aware of the impact of coma on their loved ones and can state with high confidence when a relative has been in a coma within the preceding year or at the time of inquiry."

The study also shows cases of coma in the U.S. are approximately twice than in the U.K.

“I don’t think this difference reflects a perceptual bias of the participants because we had built in measures to correct for this in the survey. Although speculative, one contributing factor might be a difference in the medical systems between the two countries,” said Dr. Rao.  

Researchers will next study coma treatments across the world to identify strategies that improve patient outcomes.

The co-chairs of the Curing Coma Campaign include J. Claude Hemphill III, Professor of Neurology at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital in San Francisco, CA, and DaiWai Olson, Professor at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas.

 About Curing Coma®
The goal of Curing Coma® is to develop and implement coma treatment strategies that improve human lives. Coma is a uniquely modern clinical challenge – a direct consequence of our incredible ability to maintain life support and fight death. Coma is a condition that has always fascinated and will increasingly challenge humanity. In 2019 the Neurocritical Care Society launched Curing Coma® as its signature clinical, scientific, and public health effort. Curing Coma® is the first global public health initiative to tackle the unifying concept of coma as a treatable medical entity. Serious and driven, the message of Curing Coma® is that there is hope for victims with prolonged disorders of consciousness after brain injury. Whether you are a healthcare professional or scientist, a patient or patient advocate, or a representative of any organization devoted to improving health or understanding, we thank you for your interest, involvement, advocacy and support. Learn more at curingcoma.org.  

About St. Luke’s Health
St. Luke’s Health is home to 16 general hospitals covering Houston, Brazos Valley, Brazosport, and Lufkin and includes Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, the research and teaching hospital for Baylor College of Medicine. St. Luke’s Health is also home to the Texas Heart ®Institute (THI), the top ranked heart center in Houston, and the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, a nationally ranked NCI designated cancer center. Its integrated network of care includes more than 380 employed and 1,600 clinically aligned network providers, and more than 11,000 employees delivering high value, nationally ranked quality and compassionate care along with a Christian ministry of healing. St. Luke’s Health is a member of CommonSpirit Health, a national nonprofit, Catholic health system with more than 140 hospitals covering 21 states and delivering care to more than 12.3 million patient visits annually. Learn more at stlukeshealth.org.

The epidemiology of coma is unknown because case ascertainment with traditional methods is difficult. Crowdsourcing observations from 30,387 family members, Kondziella et al. of the Curing Coma Campaign provide the first data on coma incidence and prevalence in the UK and the US (pooled annual incidence, 201 coma cases/100,000 population).

Publish date: 

Thursday, September 01, 2022