What is a Coma?
Coma means the patient has lost consciousness and fails to respond to simple measures to regain it. There are many causes, some of them very serious and life-endangering, such as injury, a diabetic coma or that following a cardiac infarct (heart attack).
A person may be involved in a coma case. It is advisable to have some knowledge of what action to take if you are to be of any value to the unfortunate victim. In some cases there may be a fair chance of your knowing what the problem is (for example a member of the family being a diabetic or epileptic). But often there will be no idea at all, and all that one may do is to implement first-aid measures.
These are more fully discussed in the Emergencies Section, but some general pointers will be given here.
The patient is unconscious. Breathing and/or heartbeat may or may not be present. The patient may appear pink, or more likely very pale or probably bluish, indicating that respiratory failure is occurring.
Being unconscious, the patient is totally unaware of surroundings, the presence of dangers or the risk to life. So, whatever you can offer will be to the patient’s benefit and it may be life-sustaining. Often emergency first-aid measures until expert medical attention is possible (either from a doctor on the scene or having the patient removed to a hospital) may save a life.
The main object of emergency treatment is to keep the patient’s circulation and respiration going. In other words, keep the heart and lungs functioning.
- Make sure the airways are clear.
- Check the pulse. If the heart has stopped beating, it is essential that efforts be made to reinstate this. This is done by external cardiac compression.
- If respiration has stopped, artificial respiration is necessary, and mouth-to-mouth methods are the quickest.
- If there is any sign of hemorrhaging (for example. if’ an injury has occurred), efforts should be made to check it. Loosen any obviously tight clothing (belts, neckties etc), and do not try to give any fluid or food by mouth.
- The patient should be placed in the stable side position, rolled onto the side with the left leg and arm flexed, with a cushion under the hips. This gives the patient maximum benefit, and also prevents fluids from entering the airway.
- Send for immediate medical assistance, or get the patient to a hospital as a matter of urgency.
There are many causes, and often it is impossible to diagnose these on the spot. Even with medical assistance, it may be hard to find the cause without carrying out certain tests and investigations.