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Medically induced coma


A coma is a clinical disorder that will result in a more or less prolonged period of unconsciousness (lack of vigilance and awareness of surroundings, sensitivity and motor capacities) while respiratory and circulatory functions are generally left untarnished, except in very deep coma cases. There are different degrees of coma, which are evaluated with a specific scale (GCS).
A medically induced coma is achieved by the administration of sedatives. It can also be referred to as sedation.


As for regular comas, medically induced comas are assessed with the Glasgow Coma Scale. Three criteria are relevant:
  • eye response;
  • verbal response;
  • motor response.

These criteria will be used to determine the stage of coma, which is more or less deep depending on the score.
The Glasgow Coma Scale goes from 3 to 15. A score of 3 means there is a total absence of response for all three of the criteria evaluated, whereas a score of 15 means that there is normal, spontaneous and voluntary response observed in all three areas.


It is the doctor who must decide to implement a coma or maintain a coma so as to avoid a premature return to consciousness.

This state can require intubation in order to maintain mechanical ventilation. Ventilation keeps the respiratory system in action: the machine takes over for the patient's lungs.
A coma can also be induced as a type of anesthesia (for example, in the case of a patient with numerous traumas, including fractures, tissue or organ damage) to reduce painful sensations during treatment phase.


A person can be kept in an induced coma in a specialized unit (ICU). The coma will be induced only by prescription. It is induced and maintained with an intravenous injection of specific substances: hypnotics or sedatives.