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Is a coma permanent?

If you or a loved one is in a serious accident, one of you could end up in a coma. When you think of a coma, you probably imagine a state where the person sees and hears nothing. He or she may even be on life support. The fact is that there are a few levels of comas, and a coma isn't exactly the same as a vegetative state.

What is a coma?

A coma is actually when a person is unconscious so deeply that he or she cannot wake up. The individual is unable to respond to verbal or physical stimuli.

Is a coma different from a vegetative state?

Yes. A coma, stated above, is when a person can't wake up. A person who is recovering from a coma may enter a vegetative state. This is when the person could appear awake and begin to move or open their eyes. These individuals often can't understand what they're seeing and may move without purpose. For example, a loved one in a vegetative state may cry or move in bed but not be coherent.

In either case, the coma or vegetative state is typically caused by head trauma of some kind, whether it's a brain tumor or other injuries. Comas usually last less than four weeks, though some may extend longer. People who enter a vegetative state may stay in that state for many years. In all cases, people wake up from comas over time, not immediately. If your loved one is in this state, it's important to work with your attorney to obtain the compensation necessary for ongoing care.

Source: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, "Coma," accessed May 18, 2017

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