Clinical and neuropsychological long-term outcomes after late recovery of responsiveness: A case series

Anna Estraneo, Pasquale Moretta, Vincenzo Loreto, Lucio Santoro, Luigi Trojano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective To report clinical conditions and neuropsychological functioning of patients with late recovery of responsiveness at least 5 years after injury. Design Patient series. Setting Patients discharged from an inpatient rehabilitation unit. Participants Patients (N=13) who recovered from a vegetative state 1 year after severe traumatic brain injury or 6 months after nontraumatic brain injury. Interventions Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures Coma Recovery Scale-Revised, Disability Rating Scale, and FIM. For patients who recovered full consciousness, neuropsychological tests specifically adapted for patients with very severe disabilities were used. Results After regaining responsiveness, 2 patients died because of severe clinical complications. Among the remaining 11 patients, 5 were still in a minimally conscious state at their last assessment, but 4 of them had recovered some complex behavioral responses to the environment (eg, they could follow simple commands, albeit inconsistently). Six patients had emerged from a minimally conscious state at the last evaluation. Severe functional disability was present in both patients who were conscious and patients who were minimally conscious. No patient was autonomous in common daily life activities or in transfers. All patients who were conscious showed variable cognitive impairments, and some of them also developed behavioral and psychological symptoms. However, such disturbances did not impede the patients' interaction with relatives and caregivers. Conclusions This study provides systematic data about the course of the disease in a cohort of patients that was previously considered as exceptional. Patients with late recovery show a variable degree of functional recovery, although they experience marked residual motor and cognitive disabilities. The present findings contribute to enhance the understanding of the course of the disease in patients with late recovery and might help clinicians optimize the levels of care and provide the patients' families with correct information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-716
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Outcome assessment (health care)
  • Persistent vegetative state
  • Rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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