Prognosis of patients with altered states of consciousness
Bruno, Marie-Aurélie ; ; Vanhaudenhuyse, Audrey et al
in Schnakers, Caroline; Laureys, Steven (Eds.) Coma and disorders of consciousness (2012)Detailed reference viewed: 97 (2 ULg)
Auditory resting-state network connectivity in tinnitus: a functional MRI study.
; Lefèbvre, Philippe ; et al
in PLoS ONE (2012), 7(5), 36222
The underlying functional neuroanatomy of tinnitus remains poorly understood. Few studies have focused on functional cerebral connectivity changes in tinnitus patients. The aim of this study was to test ... [more ▼]
The underlying functional neuroanatomy of tinnitus remains poorly understood. Few studies have focused on functional cerebral connectivity changes in tinnitus patients. The aim of this study was to test if functional MRI "resting-state" connectivity patterns in auditory network differ between tinnitus patients and normal controls. Thirteen chronic tinnitus subjects and fifteen age-matched healthy controls were studied on a 3 tesla MRI. Connectivity was investigated using independent component analysis and an automated component selection approach taking into account the spatial and temporal properties of each component. Connectivity in extra-auditory regions such as brainstem, basal ganglia/NAc, cerebellum, parahippocampal, right prefrontal, parietal, and sensorimotor areas was found to be increased in tinnitus subjects. The right primary auditory cortex, left prefrontal, left fusiform gyrus, and bilateral occipital regions showed a decreased connectivity in tinnitus. These results show that there is a modification of cortical and subcortical functional connectivity in tinnitus encompassing attentional, mnemonic, and emotional networks. Our data corroborate the hypothesized implication of non-auditory regions in tinnitus physiopathology and suggest that various regions of the brain seem involved in the persistent awareness of the phenomenon as well as in the development of the associated distress leading to disabling chronic tinnitus. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 20 (0 ULg)
Diffusion Tensor Imaging to Predict Long-term Outcome after Cardiac Arrest: A Bicentric Pilot Study.
; ; et al
in Anesthesiology (2012), 117(6), 1311-1321
BACKGROUND:: Prognostication in comatose survivors of cardiac arrest is a major clinical challenge. The authors' objective was to determine whether an assessment with diffusion tensor imaging, a brain ... [more ▼]
BACKGROUND:: Prognostication in comatose survivors of cardiac arrest is a major clinical challenge. The authors' objective was to determine whether an assessment with diffusion tensor imaging, a brain magnetic resonance imaging sequence, increases the accuracy of 1 yr functional outcome prediction in cardiac arrest survivors. METHODS:: Prospective, observational study in two intensive care units. Fifty-seven comatose survivors of cardiac arrest underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging. Fractional anisotropy (FA), a diffusion tensor imaging value, was measured in predefined white matter regions, and apparent diffusion coefficient was assessed in predefined grey matter regions. Prediction of unfavorable outcome at 1 yr was compared using four prognostic models: FA global, FA selected, apparent diffusion coefficient, and clinical classifiers. RESULTS:: Of the 57 patients included in the study, 49 had an unfavorable outcome at 12 months. Areas under the receiver operating characteristic curve (95% CI) to predict unfavorable outcome for the FA global, FA selected, clinical, and apparent diffusion coefficient models were 0.92 (0.82-0.98), 0.96 (0.87-0.99), 0.78 (0.65-0.88), and 0.86 (0.74-0.94), respectively. The FA selected model had the best overall accuracy for predicting outcome, with a score above 0.44 having 94% (95% CI, 83-99%) sensitivity and 100% (95% CI, 63-100%) specificity for the prediction of unfavorable outcome. CONCLUSION:: Quantitative diffusion tensor imaging indicates that white matter damage is widespread after cardiac arrest. A prognostic model based on FA values in selected white matter tracts seems to predict accurately 1 yr functional outcome. These preliminary results need to be confirmed in a larger population. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 16 (0 ULg)
Reduction in inter-hemispheric connectivity in disorders of consciousness.
; ; Soddu, Andrea et al
in PLoS ONE (2012), 7(5), 37238
Clinical diagnosis of disorders of consciousness (DOC) caused by brain injury poses great challenges since patients are often behaviorally unresponsive. A promising new approach towards objective DOC ... [more ▼]
Clinical diagnosis of disorders of consciousness (DOC) caused by brain injury poses great challenges since patients are often behaviorally unresponsive. A promising new approach towards objective DOC diagnosis may be offered by the analysis of ultra-slow (<0.1 Hz) spontaneous brain activity fluctuations measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during the resting-state. Previous work has shown reduced functional connectivity within the "default network", a subset of regions known to be deactivated during engaging tasks, which correlated with the degree of consciousness impairment. However, it remains unclear whether the breakdown of connectivity is restricted to the "default network", and to what degree changes in functional connectivity can be observed at the single subject level. Here, we analyzed resting-state inter-hemispheric connectivity in three homotopic regions of interest, which could reliably be identified based on distinct anatomical landmarks, and were part of the "Extrinsic" (externally oriented, task positive) network (pre- and postcentral gyrus, and intraparietal sulcus). Resting-state fMRI data were acquired for a group of 11 healthy subjects and 8 DOC patients. At the group level, our results indicate decreased inter-hemispheric functional connectivity in subjects with impaired awareness as compared to subjects with intact awareness. Individual connectivity scores significantly correlated with the degree of consciousness. Furthermore, a single-case statistic indicated a significant deviation from the healthy sample in 5/8 patients. Importantly, of the three patients whose connectivity indices were comparable to the healthy sample, one was diagnosed as locked-in. Taken together, our results further highlight the clinical potential of resting-state connectivity analysis and might guide the way towards a connectivity measure complementing existing DOC diagnosis. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 23 (2 ULg)
Resting state networks and consciousness: alterations of multiple resting state network connectivity in physiological, pharmacological, and pathological consciousness States.
Heine, Lizette ; Soddu, Andrea ; et al
in Frontiers in Psychology [=FPSYG] (2012), 3
In order to better understand the functional contribution of resting state activity to conscious cognition, we aimed to review increases and decreases in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI ... [more ▼]
In order to better understand the functional contribution of resting state activity to conscious cognition, we aimed to review increases and decreases in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) functional connectivity under physiological (sleep), pharmacological (anesthesia), and pathological altered states of consciousness, such as brain death, coma, vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome, and minimally conscious state. The reviewed resting state networks were the DMN, left and right executive control, salience, sensorimotor, auditory, and visual networks. We highlight some methodological issues concerning resting state analyses in severely injured brains mainly in terms of hypothesis-driven seed-based correlation analysis and data-driven independent components analysis approaches. Finally, we attempt to contextualize our discussion within theoretical frameworks of conscious processes. We think that this "lesion" approach allows us to better determine the necessary conditions under which normal conscious cognition takes place. At the clinical level, we acknowledge the technical merits of the resting state paradigm. Indeed, fast and easy acquisitions are preferable to activation paradigms in clinical populations. Finally, we emphasize the need to validate the diagnostic and prognostic value of fMRI resting state measurements in non-communicating brain damaged patients. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 17 (1 ULg)
A role for the default mode network in the bases of disorders of consciousness.
; Soddu, Andrea ; et al
in Annals of Neurology (2012), 72(3), 335-43
OBJECTIVE: Functional connectivity in the default mode network (DMN) is known to be reduced in patients with disorders of consciousness, to a different extent depending on their clinical severity ... [more ▼]
OBJECTIVE: Functional connectivity in the default mode network (DMN) is known to be reduced in patients with disorders of consciousness, to a different extent depending on their clinical severity. Nevertheless, the integrity of the structural architecture supporting this network and its relation with the exhibited functional disconnections are very poorly understood. We investigated the structural connectivity and white matter integrity of the DMN in patients with disorders of consciousness of varying clinical severity. METHODS: Fifty-two patients--19 in a vegetative state (VS), 27 in a minimally conscious state (MCS), and 6 emerging from a minimally conscious state (EMCS)--and 23 healthy volunteers participated in the study. Structural connectivity was assessed by means of probabilistic tractography, and the integrity of the resulting fibers was characterized by their mean fractional anisotropy values. RESULTS: Patients showed significant impairments in all of the pathways connecting cortical regions within this network, as well as the pathway connecting the posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus with the thalamus, relative to the healthy volunteers. Moreover, the structural integrity of this pathway, as well as that of those connecting the posterior areas of the network, was correlated with the patients' behavioral signs for awareness, being higher in EMCS patients than those in the upper and lower ranges of the MCS patients, and lowest in VS patients. INTERPRETATION: These results provide a possible neural substrate for the functional disconnection previously described in these patients, and reinforce the importance of the DMN in the genesis of awareness and the neural bases of its disorders. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 22 (2 ULg)
Functional neuroanatomy underlying the clinical subcategorization of minimally conscious state patients.
Bruno, Marie-Aurélie ; Majerus, Steve ; Boly, Mélanie et al
in Journal of Neurology (2012), 259(6), 1087-98
Patients in a minimally conscious state (MCS) show restricted signs of awareness but are unable to communicate. We assessed cerebral glucose metabolism in MCS patients and tested the hypothesis that this ... [more ▼]
Patients in a minimally conscious state (MCS) show restricted signs of awareness but are unable to communicate. We assessed cerebral glucose metabolism in MCS patients and tested the hypothesis that this entity can be subcategorized into MCS- (i.e., patients only showing nonreflex behavior such as visual pursuit, localization of noxious stimulation and/or contingent behavior) and MCS+ (i.e., patients showing command following).Patterns of cerebral glucose metabolism were studied using [(18)F]-fluorodeoxyglucose-PET in 39 healthy volunteers (aged 46 +/- 18 years) and 27 MCS patients of whom 13 were MCS- (aged 49 +/- 19 years; 4 traumatic; 21 +/- 23 months post injury) and 14 MCS+ (aged 43 +/- 19 years; 5 traumatic; 19 +/- 26 months post injury). Results were thresholded for significance at false discovery rate corrected p < 0.05.We observed a metabolic impairment in a bilateral subcortical (thalamus and caudate) and cortical (fronto-temporo-parietal) network in nontraumatic and traumatic MCS patients. Compared to MCS-, patients in MCS+ showed higher cerebral metabolism in left-sided cortical areas encompassing the language network, premotor, presupplementary motor, and sensorimotor cortices. A functional connectivity study showed that Broca's region was disconnected from the rest of the language network, mesiofrontal and cerebellar areas in MCS- as compared to MCS+ patients.The proposed subcategorization of MCS based on the presence or absence of command following showed a different functional neuroanatomy. MCS- is characterized by preserved right hemispheric cortical metabolism interpreted as evidence of residual sensory consciousness. MCS+ patients showed preserved metabolism and functional connectivity in language networks arguably reflecting some additional higher order or extended consciousness albeit devoid of clinical verbal or nonverbal expression. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 201 (10 ULg)
Recovery of cortical effective connectivity and recovery of consciousness in vegetative patients.
; Gosseries, Olivia ; et al
in Brain : A Journal of Neurology (2012), 135(Pt 4), 1308-20
Patients surviving severe brain injury may regain consciousness without recovering their ability to understand, move and communicate. Recently, electrophysiological and neuroimaging approaches, employing ... [more ▼]
Patients surviving severe brain injury may regain consciousness without recovering their ability to understand, move and communicate. Recently, electrophysiological and neuroimaging approaches, employing simple sensory stimulations or verbal commands, have proven useful in detecting higher order processing and, in some cases, in establishing some degree of communication in brain-injured subjects with severe impairment of motor function. To complement these approaches, it would be useful to develop methods to detect recovery of consciousness in ways that do not depend on the integrity of sensory pathways or on the subject's ability to comprehend or carry out instructions. As suggested by theoretical and experimental work, a key requirement for consciousness is that multiple, specialized cortical areas can engage in rapid causal interactions (effective connectivity). Here, we employ transcranial magnetic stimulation together with high-density electroencephalography to evaluate effective connectivity at the bedside of severely brain injured, non-communicating subjects. In patients in a vegetative state, who were open-eyed, behaviourally awake but unresponsive, transcranial magnetic stimulation triggered a simple, local response indicating a breakdown of effective connectivity, similar to the one previously observed in unconscious sleeping or anaesthetized subjects. In contrast, in minimally conscious patients, who showed fluctuating signs of non-reflexive behaviour, transcranial magnetic stimulation invariably triggered complex activations that sequentially involved distant cortical areas ipsi- and contralateral to the site of stimulation, similar to activations we recorded in locked-in, conscious patients. Longitudinal measurements performed in patients who gradually recovered consciousness revealed that this clear-cut change in effective connectivity could occur at an early stage, before reliable communication was established with the subject and before the spontaneous electroencephalogram showed significant modifications. Measurements of effective connectivity by means of transcranial magnetic stimulation combined with electroencephalography can be performed at the bedside while by-passing subcortical afferent and efferent pathways, and without requiring active participation of subjects or language comprehension; hence, they offer an effective way to detect and track recovery of consciousness in brain-injured patients who are unable to exchange information with the external environment. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 58 (2 ULg)
Brain connectivity in disorders of consciousness.
Boly, Mélanie ; ; et al
in Brain connectivity (2012), 2(1), 1-10
The last 10 years witnessed a considerable increase in our knowledge of brain function in survivors to severe brain injuries with disorders of consciousness (DOC). At the same time, a growing interest ... [more ▼]
The last 10 years witnessed a considerable increase in our knowledge of brain function in survivors to severe brain injuries with disorders of consciousness (DOC). At the same time, a growing interest developed for the use of functional neuroimaging as a new diagnostic tool in these patients. In this context, particular attention has been devoted to connectivity studies-as these, more than measures of brain metabolism, may be more appropriate to capture the dynamics of large populations of neurons. Here, we will review the pros and cons of various connectivity methods as potential diagnostic tools in brain-damaged patients with DOC. We will also discuss the relevance of the study of the level versus the contents of consciousness in this context. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 45 (1 ULg)
Burnout in healthcare workers managing chronic patients with disorders of consciousness.
Gosseries, Olivia ; Demertzi, Athina ; et al
in Brain Injury (2012)
Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess the presence of burnout among professional caregivers managing patients with severe brain injury recovering from coma and working in neurorehabilitation ... [more ▼]
Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess the presence of burnout among professional caregivers managing patients with severe brain injury recovering from coma and working in neurorehabilitation centres or nursing homes. Methods: The Maslach Burnout Inventory was sent to 40 centres involved in the Belgian federal network for the care of vegetative and minimally conscious patients. The following demographic data were also collected: age, gender, profession, expertise in the field, amount of time spent with patients and working place. Results: Out of 1068 questionnaires sent, 568 were collected (53% response rate). Forty-five were excluded due to missing data. From the 523 healthcare workers, 18% (n = 93) presented a burnout, 33% (n = 171) showed emotional exhaustion and 36% (n = 186) had a depersonalization. Profession (i.e. nurse/nursing assistants), working place (i.e. nursing home) and the amount of time spent with patients were associated with burnout. The logistic regression showed that profession was nevertheless the strongest variable linked to burnout. Conclusions: According to this study, a significant percentage of professional caregivers and particularly nurses taking care of patients in a vegetative state and in a minimally conscious state suffered from burnout. Prevention of burnout symptoms among caregivers is crucial and is expected to promote more efficient medical care of these challenging patients. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 36 (4 ULg)
Hierarchical clustering of brain activity during human nonrapid eye movement sleep.
Boly, Mélanie ; ; et al
in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (2012)
Consciousness is reduced during nonrapid eye movement (NREM) sleep due to changes in brain function that are still poorly understood. Here, we tested the hypothesis that impaired consciousness during NREM ... [more ▼]
Consciousness is reduced during nonrapid eye movement (NREM) sleep due to changes in brain function that are still poorly understood. Here, we tested the hypothesis that impaired consciousness during NREM sleep is associated with an increased modularity of brain activity. Cerebral connectivity was quantified in resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging times series acquired in 13 healthy volunteers during wakefulness and NREM sleep. The analysis revealed a modification of the hierarchical organization of large-scale networks into smaller independent modules during NREM sleep, independently from EEG markers of the slow oscillation. Such modifications in brain connectivity, possibly driven by sleep ultraslow oscillations, could hinder the brain's ability to integrate information and account for decreased consciousness during NREM sleep. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 47 (3 ULg)
Le Sommeil dans l'Etat Végétatif et de Conscience Minimale
Cologan, Victor ; ; et al
Poster (2011, November)
Présentation des résultats de l'étude du sommeil chez les patients cérébrolésés en état de conscience altéré.Detailed reference viewed: 4 (1 ULg)
Wachkoma: medizinische Grundlagen und neurowissenschaftliche Revolution
Demertzi, Athina ; ; et al
in Jox, R.; Borasio, G. D.; Kühlmeyer, K. (Eds.) Leben im Koma Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf das Problem des Wachkomas (2011)Detailed reference viewed: 90 (5 ULg)
Désordres de la conscience : aspects éthiques.
Demertzi, Athina ; Gosseries, Olivia ; Bruno, Marie-Aurélie et al
in Schnakers, Caroline; LAUREYS, Steven (Eds.) Comas et états de conscience altérée (2011)
L’apparition de la ventilation mécanique dans les années cinquante et le développement des soins intensifs dans les années soixante ont permis à de nombreux patients de survivre à de graves lésions ... [more ▼]
L’apparition de la ventilation mécanique dans les années cinquante et le développement des soins intensifs dans les années soixante ont permis à de nombreux patients de survivre à de graves lésions cérébrales. Bien que ces avancées technologiques soient étonnantes, de nombreux patients vont alors se retrouver dans des états cliniques critiques peu rencontrés auparavant (1). L’impact éthique de ces états d’inconscience se reflète lors de la rédaction des premiers comités de bioéthique et lors de l’apparition du concept d’acharnement thérapeutique. En 1968, le comité spécial de l’école médicale de Harvard a publié un article essentiel redéfinissant la mort comme étant un coma irréversible et une perte permanente de toutes les fonctions cérébrales (2). Le comité, composé de dix médecins, d’un théologien, d’un avocat et d’un historien des sciences, a débattu des questions médicales, juridiques et sociétales quant à la prise en charge des patients en mort cérébrale. Nous donnerons ici un bref aperçu des principales questions éthiques liées à la notion de conscience et à la prise en charge médicale des patients atteints de troubles de la conscience (TDC) tels que le coma, l’état végétatif et l’état de conscience minimale. Nous mettrons également l’accent sur le problème de la gestion de la douleur et des prises de décision en fin de vie. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 80 (17 ULg)
Hypnotic modulation of resting state fMRI default mode and extrinsic network connectivity
Demertzi, Athina ; Soddu, Andrea ; FAYMONVILLE, Marie-Elisabeth et al
in Progress in Brain Research (2011), 193
Resting state fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) acquisitions are characterized by low-frequency spontaneous activity in a default mode network (encompassing medial brain areas and linked to ... [more ▼]
Resting state fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) acquisitions are characterized by low-frequency spontaneous activity in a default mode network (encompassing medial brain areas and linked to self-related processes) and an anticorrelated “extrinsic” system (encompassing lateral frontoparietal areas and modulated via external sensory stimulation). In order to better determine the functional contribution of these networks to conscious awareness, we here sought to transiently modulate their relationship by means of hypnosis. We used independent component analysis (ICA) on resting state fMRI acquisitions during normal wakefulness, under hypnotic state, and during a control condition of autobiographical mental imagery. As compared to mental imagery, hypnosis-induced modulation of resting state fMRI networks resulted in a reduced “extrinsic” lateral frontoparietal cortical connectivity, possibly reflecting a decreased sensory awareness. The default mode network showed an increased connectivity in bilateral angular and middle frontal gyri, whereas its posterior midline and parahippocampal structures decreased their connectivity during hypnosis, supposedly related to an altered “self” awareness and posthypnotic amnesia. In our view, fMRI resting state studies of physiological (e.g., sleep or hypnosis), pharmacological (e.g., sedation or anesthesia), and pathological modulation (e.g., coma or related states) of “intrinsic” default mode and anticorrelated “extrinsic” sensory networks, and their interaction with other cerebral networks, will further improve our understanding of the neural correlates of subjective awareness. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 110 (22 ULg)
Automated EEG entropy measurements in coma, vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome and minimally conscious state
Gosseries, Olivia ; Schnakers, Caroline ; LEDOUX, Didier et al
in Functional Neurology (2011)
Monitoring the level of consciousness in brain injured patients with disorders of consciousness is crucial as it provides diagnostic and prognostic information. Behavioral assessment remains the gold ... [more ▼]
Monitoring the level of consciousness in brain injured patients with disorders of consciousness is crucial as it provides diagnostic and prognostic information. Behavioral assessment remains the gold standard for assessing consciousness but previous studies have shown a high rate of misdiagnosis. This study aimed to investigate the usefulness of electroencephalography (EEG) entropy measurements in differentiating unconscious (coma or vegetative) from minimally conscious patients. Left fronto-temporal EEG recordings (10-minute resting state epochs) were prospectively obtained in 56 patients and 16 age-matched healthy volunteers. Patients were assessed in the acute (≤1 month post-injury;n=29) or chronic (>1 month post-injury; n=27) stage. The etiology was traumatic in 23 patients. Automated online EEG entropy calculations (providing an arbitrary value ranging from 0 to 91) were compared with behavioral assessments (Coma Recovery Scale-Revised) and outcome. EEG entropy correlated with Coma Recovery Scale total scores (r=0.49). Mean EEG entropy values were higher in minimally conscious (73±19; mean and standard deviation) than in vegetative/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome patients (45±28). Receiver operating characteristic analysis revealed an entropy cut-off value of 52 differentiating acute unconscious from minimally conscious patients (sensitivity 89% and specificity 90%). In chronic patients, entropy measurements offered no reliable diagnostic information. EEG entropy measurements did not allow prediction of outcome. User-independent time-frequency balanced spectral EEG entropy measurements seem to constitute an interesting diagnostic – albeit not prognostic – tool for assessing neural network complexity in disorders of consciousness in the acute setting. Future studies are needed before using this tool in routine clinical practice, and these should seek to improve automated EEG quantification paradigms in order to reduce the remaining false negative and false positive findings. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 263 (11 ULg)
When the nursing workload measurement among comatose patients becomes a reality …
THONON, Olivier ; BOULANGER, Jean-Marie ; BAKAY, Tahar et al
Poster (2011, May)
The neurologic unit of the Academic Hospital of Liège is composed of 30 beds. This is one of reference's centers for detection and differentiation of the comatose patients. With the mediatization of the ... [more ▼]
The neurologic unit of the Academic Hospital of Liège is composed of 30 beds. This is one of reference's centers for detection and differentiation of the comatose patients. With the mediatization of the Pr S. Laureys's findings, our reference's center accommodate more and more comatose patients from different European countries. With the arrival and the increase of these comatose patients, the nurses had the feeling of an increase workload by report to all others neurologic patients. The purpose of this overview is initially to be able to measure the nursing workload among comatose patients and to demonstrate that this one, within a neurology unit of an academic Belgian hospital, is heavier than that of other patients suffering from neurologic affections. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 10 (1 ULg)
The ethics in disorders of consciousness
Demertzi, Athina ; LAUREYS, Steven ; Bruno, Marie-Aurélie
in Vincent, J. L. (Ed.) Annual Update in Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (2011)
The introduction of the mechanical ventilator in the 1950s and the development of intensive care in the 1960s permitted many patients to sustain their vegetative functions and survive severe injuries ... [more ▼]
The introduction of the mechanical ventilator in the 1950s and the development of intensive care in the 1960s permitted many patients to sustain their vegetative functions and survive severe injuries. Despite such advances, in many cases patients were found to suffer from altered states of consciousness which had never been encountered before as these patients would normally have died from apnea . The imminent ethical impact of these profound states of unconsciousness was reflected in the composition of the first bioethical committees discussing the redefinition of life and the concept of therapeutic obstinacy. In 1968, the Ad Hoc Committee of Harvard Medical School published a milestone paper for the redefinition of death as irreversible coma and brain failure . The committee was comprised of ten physicians, a theologian, a lawyer and a historian of science, betokening the medical, legal and societal debates that were to follow. We will here give a brief overview of some ethical issues related to the concept of consciousness and the medical management of patients with disorders of consciousness, such as comatose, vegetative and minimally conscious states that may be encountered in the intensive care setting. We will emphasize the problem of pain management and end-of life decision-making. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 49 (2 ULg)