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About Coma

General information

  • Coma is a range of unconsciousness varying from light to very deep.


  • The primary symptom is unresponsiveness to the environment and a lack of awareness of surroundings or circumstances. Coma is not sleep, although patients may look asleep.
  • Most patients with critical neurological illness will be in coma at some time and many patients can recover from coma.


  • Coma occurs in variety of neurological disease and disorders.
  • Coma is evaluated using computed tomography (CT) brain scans, a test of brain wave function called an electroencephalogram (EEG), blood tests and standard brain function examinations.
  • Some cases also may require magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and blood flow tests.

Treatment and outcome

  • Physicians caring for a patient with coma will carefully consider factors such as depth, length and cause of coma, brainstem function, and age of the patient. Ask your physician about these factors when discussing prognosis for a family member with coma.

The Neuro-ICU cares for patients with all types of neurosurgical and neurological injuries, including stroke, brain hemorrhage, trauma and tumors. We work in close cooperation with your surgeon or medical doctor with whom you have had initial contact. Together with the surgeon or medical doctor, the Neuro-ICU attending physician and team members direct your family member's care while in the ICU. The Neuro-ICU team consists of the bedside nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians in specialty training (Fellows) and attending physicians. UCLA Neuro ICU Family Guide