It isn’t unusual for a serious traumatic brain injury (TBI) to put the victim into a coma – and that’s terrifying for their families. It’s only natural to want answers about their condition, and doctors don’t always have clear answers. Even the most technologically advanced neurological exams can’t tell doctors if a coma patient will wake up.
Fortunately, researchers have discovered that a simple “sniff test” can actually provide a lot of clues to a coma victim’s prognosis.
What kind of sniff test is this?
It’s really very basic: Doctors expose the patient to two vials – one containing a pleasant scent and one that’s offensive – and watch for an involuntary reaction in their breathing. A positive reaction occurs when the patient reduces their level of respiration in response to the malodorous scent.
What does this mean? Such a reaction indicates that the patient is in at least a minimally conscious state, not vegetative. That indicates that they are likely to regain at least some level of consciousness in the future. Those who don’t respond to the test are unlikely to recover.
For the patient, this means that their care team can make early, informed decisions about their care without having to wait to see if they regain any type of consciousness. For the patient’s family, this gives them an early indication that can help them either retain their hopes or manage their expectations for the future.
Traumatic brain injuries are devastating both to the victims of workplace accidents and their families. Make sure that you have someone on your side who understands the difficulties you’re facing after a loved one has suffered a TBI and is willing to fight for the compensation you need.