Short-term outcomes of early intensive neurorehabilitation for prolonged disorders of consciousness: A prospective cohort study

Danielle M.F. Driessen*, Cecile M.A. Utens, Prof Gerard M. Ribbers, Willemijn S. van Erp, Majanka H. Heijenbrok-Kal

*Corresponding author for this work

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Advances in medical care have increased survival in people with severe brain injuries and with that the number of survivors with prolonged disorders of consciousness (PDOC) has increased. In the literature, early intensive neurorehabilitation (EIN) for people with PDOC is recommended to achieve the best possible outcomes.

To evaluate the frequency and extent of recovery of consciousness, mortality, complications, pain and discomfort, and medication during a nationwide EIN programme in people with PDOC after acquired brain injury. We hypothesized that level of consciousness would improve in half of people with PDOC.

Prospective cohort study. People with PDOC aged 16 years and older admitted to the EIN department centralized in a single rehabilitation centre in the Netherlands (Libra Rehabilitation & Audiology) were included. The EIN delivers a subacute medical level of care and rehabilitation for a maximum duration of 14 weeks. The outcome measures were level of consciousness (CRS-R), mortality, number of complications, medication and pain/discomfort (NCS-R).

Of the 104 people included, 68 % emerged to a minimal conscious state with command-following or higher during EIN and 44 % regained consciousness. Mortality during EIN was 6 %, and 50 % of deaths followed a non-treatment decision or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment. Almost all participants had at least 1 medical complication, leading to hospital readmission for 30 %. 73 % showed no pain or discomfort. During EIN, cardiovascular medication and analgesics were reduced by 15 %.

During the EIN programme, a large percentage of people with PDOC regained at least a minimal conscious state or even consciousness. These outcomes and the frequent medical complications in these people suggest that intensive specialized care should be offered to all people with PDOC. The outcomes of this study might help health professionals to better inform the families of people with PDOC about the short-term prognosis of PDOC. Protocol registration number: The Dutch Trial Register, NL 8138.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101838
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine
Issue number5
Early online date2 Jun 2024
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024

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