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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

New Test Helps Predict if Relative will Awake from Vegetative State.

One of the biggest challenges facing doctors and patient relatives in hospitals is when or if you should remove life support from a comatose patient.

It turns out that an already common tool, positron emission tomography or a PET scan can be interpreted to determine which unconsious patients are actually brain dead (vegetative state) or merely unconscious but with minimal brain activity as shown by the traditional measure, an EKG.

“This is really cool what these guys did here,” says neuroscientist Nicholas Schiff at Cornell University, who was not involved in the study. “We’re going to make great use of it.”

A PET scan actually generates antimatter (technically known as radionuclides in medical applications) in incredibly tiny quantities which can be used as a tracer.

The positrons (positively charged antimatter equivalent of electrons) decay over a short period of time releasing gamma rays which are easily detectable.

A common PET scan tool which uses a fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) tracer shows changes in the glucose (sugar used by the body’s cells and an indication of activity due to energy consumption) levels of the brain.

Unlike many clinical tools a PET scan is relatively simple and easy to conduct but previously they were used to detect disease - the new results show they can also indicate very low levels of brain activity.

An incredibly new tool helping both doctors and families determine which patients have any potential for eventually waking up.

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