Assessment of Nociception and Pain in Participants in an Unresponsive or Minimally Conscious State After Acquired Brain Injury: The Relation Between the Coma Recovery Scale–Revised and the Nociception Coma Scale–Revised

Published:April 10, 2018DOI:



      To investigate the relation between consciousness and nociceptive responsiveness (ie, Nociception Coma Scale–Revised [NCS-R]), to examine the suitability of the NCS-R for assessing nociception in participants with disorders of consciousness (DOC), and to replicate previous findings on psychometric properties of the scale.


      Specialized DOC program.


      Specialized DOC program and university hospitals.


      Participants (N=85) diagnosed with DOC.


      Not applicable.

      Main Outcome Measures

      We prospectively assessed consciousness with the Coma Recovery Scale–Revised (CRS-R). Responses during baseline, non-noxious, and noxious stimulations were scored with the NCS-R and CRS-R oromotor and motor subscales.


      CRS-R total scores correlated with NCS-R total scores and subscores. CRS-R motor subscores correlated with NCS-R total scores and motor subscores, and CRS-R oromotor subscores correlated with NCS-R total scores as well as verbal and facial expression subscores. There was a difference between unresponsive wakefulness syndrome and minimally conscious state in the proportion of grimacing and/or crying participants during noxious conditions. We replicated previous findings on psychometric properties of the scale but found a different score as the best threshold for nociception.


      We report a strong relation between the responsiveness to nociception and the level of consciousness. The NCS-R seems to be a valuable tool for assessing nociception in an efficient manner, but additional studies are needed to allow recommendations for clinical assessment of subjective pain experience.


      List of abbreviations:

      CRS-R (Coma Recovery Scale–Revised), DOC (disorders of consciousness), MCS (minimally conscious state), NCS-R (Nociception Coma Scale–Revised), UWS (unresponsive wakefulness syndrome)
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