Does pain relief influence recovery of consciousness? A case report of a patient treated with ziconotide

Bernardo Lanzillo, Vincenzo Loreto, Claudio Calabrese, Anna Estraneo, Pasquale Moretta, Luigi Trojano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For people with cervical spinal cord injury (SCI), access to computers can be difficult, thus several devices have been developed to facilitate their Disorders of consciousness (DOC) are difficult to classify. The degree of consciousness varies from coma to vegetative state or unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (UWS) and minimally conscious state. Correct diagnosis has important ethical and legal implications, and pain may be cause of misdiagnosis. We describe here a patient with traumatic brain injury, classified as UWS. His clinical picture was dominated by spasticity, and pain. He underwent intrathecal treatment of spasticity with baclofen. Improvement was not that expected. However, there was a dramatic improvement when ziconotide was added to relieve pain; the patient began to eat by mouth, talk, and his tracheal tube could be removed and he is currently classified as having severe disability. The suspension of ziconotide caused a clear re-worsening of clinical condition, reverted by his reintroduction. Pain is an important factor in patients with DOC. Anecdotal reports of improved consciousness with intrathecal baclofen therapy may be due to pain relief. Reduction of pain in DOC is important and drugs should not interfere with cognition, and must be effective and manageable. Ziconotide may be one of the possible candidate due to its synergistic antispastic action in combination with baclofen when an intratecal pump has been implanted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-266
Number of pages4
JournalEuropean Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Baclofen
  • Brain injuries
  • Consciousness Disorders
  • Pain
  • Ziconotide; Injections, spinal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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