Spaulding Researchers Participate in First Global Study to Reveal Epidemiologic Data on Coma
Coma is a serious medical condition caused by brain injury or illness that has no known cure. Until now, information about how common coma is has not been available. A new study, titled “Incidence and prevalence of coma in the UK and the USA” and published in Brain Communications, was conducted jointly by eighteen neuroscientists from the United States and Europe who are involved in the Curing Coma Campaign. The study has revealed the first epidemiologic data on coma in the United Kingdom and the US. The researchers utilized crowdsourcing methodology to determine how frequently coma occurs.
"In contrast to neurological conditions for which epidemiological data are available, coma results from many different brain injuries or medical diseases. Coma is not readily identifiable with conventional methods that utilize electronic medical records, insurance billing codes or clinical surveyance data," says Daniel Kondziella, a neurologist from Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital, in Copenhagen, Denmark.
So, who knows how frequent coma is? “The family knows,” he adds.
Joseph T. Giacino, PhD, Director of Rehabilitation Neuropsychology and the Disorders of Consciousness Program at Spaulding Rehabilitation Network and study co-author explains that, "Crowdsourcing methodology allows representative sampling of participants from the UK and the US populations based on official census data. 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." In addition to Dr. Giacino, Spaulding’s Yelena G. Bodien, PhD, Research Scientist, co-authored the paper.
The co-chairs of the Curing Coma Campaign, 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, TX, recognize the importance of this study: ”The authors have shown that in the US, at any given time, 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."
Dr. Giacino continues, “The frequency of coma is comparable to other major conditions that we often encounter in intensive care such as sepsis and traumatic brain injury, but until now we had no figures to demonstrate this.”
Interestingly, the authors identified many more cases of coma in the US than in the UK. Dr. Bodien states, “I don’t think this difference reflects a perceptional bias of the participants because we included 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."
"For example," Daniel Kondziella says, "the number of intensive care beds in the UK per capita is considerably lower than in the US, but we have to do more research to find out if this is part of the explanation. A combination of traditional epidemiological methods and crowdsourcing of family observations might provide even more accurate estimates for coma in the future. These figures are urgently needed because they broaden the public health perspective for patients in coma and other disorders of consciousness.”
About Spaulding Rehabilitation Network
A member of the Mass General Brigham Health System, the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network includes Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, with a main campus in Charlestown the 3rd ranked rehabilitation hospital in the country by U.S. News & World Report, along with Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Cape Cod, Spaulding Hospital Cambridge, Spaulding Nursing and Therapy Center Brighton, and over 25 outpatient sites throughout Eastern Massachusetts. An acclaimed teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School and home to the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spaulding is recognized as a top residency program in the U.S. in the Doximity Residency Navigator. Spaulding also was recognized by the 2022 Disability Equality Index as a “Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion.” For more information, visit www.spauldingrehab.org.