A vegetative state is when people with brain damage appear to be awake but don't do any purposeful actions or respond to what's going on around them.
Vegetative state is different from a coma in that people's eyes are open and they appear to be awake.
A vegetative state happens when:
Causes involve severe brain damage from:
People in a vegetative state can:
People in a vegetative state can't:
People who have some awareness may be in a minimally conscious state.
Doctors suspect a vegetative state based on the person’s symptoms. To tell for sure, they may:
There's no treatment to make a vegetative state get better. People sometimes recover a bit on their own depending on what their original problem was and how severe it was. People don't come back to normal, but a few relearn how to talk and understand people.
A person in a vegetative state needs long-term care, including:
Feeding by tube
Frequently turning the person's body to prevent pressure sores
Medicine to prevent blood clots
Moving the arms and legs to prevent muscle stiffness
A tube (catheter) in the bladder to drain urine
Cleaning and bathing
If a person has been in a vegetative state for a long time and show no signs of recovering, doctors may talk to the family about not giving life-sustaining treatment in the event of a new illness or complication. Doctors and the person's family consider what the person would want and review any instructions available in a living will (advance directive).