ACRM endorsed practice guideline| Volume 99, ISSUE 9, P1699-1709, September 2018

Practice Guideline Update Recommendations Summary: Disorders of Consciousness

Report of the Guideline Development, Dissemination, and Implementation Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology; the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine; and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research
Published:August 08, 2018DOI:



      To update the 1995 American Academy of Neurology (AAN) practice parameter on persistent vegetative state and the 2002 case definition on minimally conscious state (MCS) and provide care recommendations for patients with prolonged disorders of consciousness (DoC).


      Recommendations were based on systematic review evidence, related evidence, care principles, and inferences using a modified Delphi consensus process according to the AAN 2011 process manual, as amended.


      Clinicians should identify and treat confounding conditions, optimize arousal, and perform serial standardized assessments to improve diagnostic accuracy in adults and children with prolonged DoC (Level B). Clinicians should counsel families that for adults, MCS (vs vegetative state [VS]/ unresponsive wakefulness syndrome [UWS]) and traumatic (vs nontraumatic) etiology are associated with more favorable outcomes (Level B). When prognosis is poor, long-term care must be discussed (Level A), acknowledging that prognosis is not universally poor (Level B). Structural MRI, SPECT, and the Coma Recovery Scale–Revised can assist prognostication in adults (Level B); no tests are shown to improve prognostic accuracy in children. Pain always should be assessed and treated (Level B) and evidence supporting treatment approaches discussed (Level B). Clinicians should prescribe amantadine (100–200 mg bid) for adults with traumatic VS/UWS or MCS (4–16 weeks post injury) to hasten functional recovery and reduce disability early in recovery (Level B). Family counseling concerning children should acknowledge that natural history of recovery, prognosis, and treatment are not established (Level B). Recent evidence indicates that the term chronic VS/UWS should replace permanent VS, with duration specified (Level B). Additional recommendations are included.

      List of abbreviations:

      AAN (American Academy of Neurology), ACRM (American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine), CI (confidence interval), CRS-R (Coma Recovery Scale–Revised), DoC (disorders of consciousness), DRS (Disability Rating Scale), FDG (fluorodeoxyglucose), MCS (minimally conscious state), TBI (traumatic brain injury), UWS (unresponsive wakefulness syndrome), VS (vegetative state)
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