Helps reading for a coma patient

When people are in a coma, when is it possible to wake up?

Sometimes people wake up from a coma after many years. This rarely happens and depends on how bad the damage is to the brain. What are the differences between coma, vegetative state and artificial coma?

It happens again and again that people wake up from a coma after months or years. That is often in the headlines - because it is rare, especially after many years. Because the longer a coma lasts, the greater the likelihood that a person will no longer wake up.

As a rule, a coma lasts a few days to a maximum of a few weeks. Doctors distinguish between different phases, the vegetative coma and the artificial coma are special forms.

What is a coma?

A coma is not a disease, but a condition: The affected person is alive, but is unconscious. It is as if he were sleeping: he does not react at all or only very weakly to external stimuli such as pain, light or the voice of another person.

Experts differentiate between different degrees of severity of a coma.

  • step 1: The patient is unconscious but has a slight response to pain. When exposed to light, the pupils react by contracting.
  • Level 2: The reaction to pain is very slight, and the pupils hardly react either.
  • level 3: The response to pain and the movement of the pupils are weak, diffuse and aimless. Muscle cramps can occur.
  • Level 4: The patient shows no response to pain. The eyes are wide open but do not respond to light and do not move. However, the patient breathes unaided.

How is a coma treated?

Coma patients usually receive intensive care. They often have to be artificially ventilated or fed. The therapy treats the disease that caused the coma. In addition, there are measures that appeal to the brain in the hope of awakening its senses.

Causes of Coma

The unconsciousness can have many different causes. The brain is often injured after a serious accident, such as a traumatic brain injury. Sometimes, however, there is nothing to be seen on the outside, but severe damage has occurred inside the skull.

A bruised brain can cause severe symptoms, but a concussion is usually easier. Bleeding in the brain can cause a coma, as can high blood pressure in the head. Conversely, a stroke can reduce the blood supply to such an extent that the person affected may pass out.

Drug or medication poisoning

Inflammation of the meninges or meninges can also affect the functions in the head so badly that people fall into a coma. Other causes are tumors, metabolic or hormonal disorders, and poisoning from drugs or medication.

What is a vegetative state?

Doctors also call the vegetative state "apallic syndrome". Around 5,000 people in Germany live in a vegetative state. Affected people seem awake because their eyes are open. They cannot communicate, and it is often impossible to prove whether they perceive something of their environment.

Sometimes, however, patients manage to fix certain points in a room. This was the case, for example, of a woman from the United Arab Emirates who woke up after 27 years: she had often looked at her son. It is possible for those affected like her to wake up from a vegetative state, but this rarely happens.

What is an artificial coma?

In this case, medical professionals intentionally put a patient into a coma using anesthetics. So you are not really in a coma, you are drugged. The point of the artificial coma is to protect seriously ill or injured people and to help them get better faster. Sometimes patients remember things that happened during the artificial coma.

What is locked-in syndrome?

This very rare syndrome is an almost complete paralysis of a person. Most patients cannot move their face or body. Chewing and swallowing are also not possible. However, those affected are fully conscious. Some can learn to communicate with their eyes.


Many patients who are in a coma are still conscious even if they cannot express themselves. For example, some respond with stronger breathing or a faster heartbeat when touched, especially by loved ones. Therefore, caregivers and relatives should always behave as if the coma patient were fully conscious.

Important NOTE: The information is in no way a substitute for professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. The contents of t-online cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.

more on the subject

  • Subjects:
  • Brain,
  • Stroke,
  • Poisoning,
  • Concussion,
  • Bleeding,
  • Brain death,
  • Head,
  • Meningitis,
  • Eyes,
  • Pain,
  • Vegetative state