People can end up in a coma after almost any serious injury, especially if they have a head wound. The first thing their loved ones want to know is usually, “Will they wake up?” or “How well will they recover?”
Generally speaking, there’s been no way to tell. Doctors could, at best, do a little guesswork based on the extent of someone’s injuries, their age and their overall health — but guesswork is all it has been. Even the best technological testing methods have error rates that run around 40%.
That may have changed, however, thanks to a simple “sniff” test
Researchers did a simple experiment with coma patients: They measured the breathing of patients who were unconscious due to a coma as they were exposed to pleasant and repugnant smells.
The results were remarkable. All of the patients who showed a positive response (such as decreasing their breathing in reaction to an unpleasant scent) to at least one test eventually progressed from their unresponsive state to some sort of responsive one. In some cases, however, the positive response to the sniff test preceded detectable consciousness by a considerable amount of time.
It should be noted that 37.5% of those patients who failed to respond to the sniff test were “false negatives.” However, there were zero false positives. That’s encouraging for families who see a minimal autonomic response from their loved ones.
When your loved one’s future is uncertain, take action
When a loved one has suffered a catastrophic brain injury after a wreck, a tragic fall or through some other accident that wasn’t their fault, you need to take steps to protect their future. Learn more about the legal options for compensation that may be available.