The vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome: a systematic review of prevalence studies
SourceEuropean Journal of Neurology, 21, 11, (2014), pp. 1361-8
Article / Letter to editor
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Primary and Community Care
European Journal of Neurology
SubjectRadboudumc 18: Healthcare improvement science RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences; Radboudumc 1: Alzheimer`s disease DCMN: Donders Center for Medical Neuroscience
One of the worst outcomes of acquired brain injury is the vegetative state, recently renamed 'unresponsive wakefulness syndrome' (VS/UWS). A patient in VS/UWS shows reflexive behaviour such as spontaneous eye opening and breathing, but no signs of awareness of the self or the environment. We performed a systematic review of VS/UWS prevalence studies and assessed their reliability. Medline, Embase, the Cochrane Library, CINAHL and PsycINFO were searched in April 2013 for cross-sectional point or period prevalence studies explicitly stating the prevalence of VS/UWS due to acute causes within the general population. We additionally checked bibliographies and consulted experts in the field to obtain 'grey data' like government reports. Relevant publications underwent quality assessment and data-extraction. We retrieved 1032 papers out of which 14 met the inclusion criteria. Prevalence figures varied from 0.2 to 6.1 VS/UWS patients per 100 000 members of the population. However, the publications' methodological quality differed substantially, in particular with regards to inclusion criteria and diagnosis verification. The reliability of VS/UWS prevalence figures is poor. Methodological flaws in available prevalence studies, the fact that 5/14 of the studies predate the identification of the minimally conscious state (MCS) as a distinct entity in 2002, and insufficient verification of included cases may lead to both overestimation and underestimation of the actual number of patients in VS/UWS.
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