Catastrophic crash injuries may require a medically induced coma

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By Matthew Maddox / January 1, 2024

looking out from drivers seat through broken windshield

If doctors tell you they want to place a loved one in a medically induced coma after a car crash, it’s a frightening prospect. However, it may save their life.

A medically induced coma is different than a “natural” coma. It’s typically used to protect the brain from further damage because it reduces brain activity. This can help a traumatic brain injury (TBI) heal, prevent further brain injury and even help with regeneration. Patients are sometimes placed in medically induced comas after a car crash if they’re in extreme pain (for example if they’ve suffered serious burns or an amputated limb) that painkillers can’t alleviate.

What happens when someone is placed in a coma?

CT scan of brain is conducted on comatose patient in intensive care unitGenerally, doctors use anesthetic sedatives to achieve a coma. They may also use therapeutic hypothermia to cool the body. The patient will be unconscious and free from pain.

Sometimes, a patient has to be placed in a coma in stages. How many stages are necessary depends on what kind of condition they’re in when they reach the hospital. Further, they have to be monitored very carefully while they’re comatose. That’s not just to keep them from waking up too soon but to ensure that their brain activity doesn’t drop too much and that their other functions (heartbeat and respiration, for example) are still satisfactory.

There are also several stages involved in removing someone from a medically induced coma. It can take as long as a day, depending on how long they were unconscious.

A medically induced coma may be a patient’s only chance of recovery

Doctors don’t recommend placing someone in a medically induced coma lightly. It’s often a last resort when someone has suffered a TBI. They are intended to be reversible. The sooner someone can be brought out of a coma, the better their prognosis typically is. There can, however, be aftereffects from the coma that require treatment or therapy in addition to treatment for a patient’s original injury.

If a loved one has suffered a TBI or other catastrophic injuries in a collision caused by a reckless or negligent driver, you’ve got far more urgent things to worry about than dealing with insurance companies. However, the compensation to which your loved one is likely entitled will be necessary to cover the extensive medical bills and other expenses and damages. Getting sound legal guidance as soon as possible can help you hand off that responsibility and focus on helping your loved one.