Between 15% and 30% of patients admitted to intensive care units are comatose at some point during their admission as a result of primary neurologic (trauma, stroke, meningitis, neoplasm, seizures) or systemic (cardiopulmonary arrest, toxins, sepsis, metabolic derangements) problems. Comatose patients have grossly impaired brain function that renders them unconscious. Although some comatose patients recover, others reacquire minimal environmental awareness (a minimally conscious state), transition to being in a vegetative state, or progress to death. Patients who become vegetative have a complete lack of awareness of themselves and their environment, but have sleep-wake cycles and variable preservation of cranial nerve function. After a month of being vegetative, a patient is described as being in a persistent vegetative state, and if there is a high degree of clinical certainty that the condition is irreversible, the patient is deemed to be in a...

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