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Critical Care

Open Access

Prognosis in patients presenting with nontraumatic coma

  • S Forsberg1,
  • J Höjer1 and
  • U Ludwigs1
Critical Care201014(Suppl 1):P333

Published: 1 March 2010


Public HealthMortality RateEmergency DepartmentEmergency MedicineMetabolic Disorder


Studies of patients presenting with coma are limited and little is known about the prognosis of these cases [13]. The aim of this study was to investigate the acute and long-term prognosis after an episode of nontraumatic coma.


Adults admitted consecutively to an emergency department in Stockholm, Sweden between February 2003 and May 2005 with a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of 10 or below were enrolled prospectively. All available data were used to explore the cause of the impaired consciousness on admission. Patients surviving hospitalization were followed up for 2 years regarding survival.


The final study population of 865 patients had the following eight different coma etiologies: poisoning (n = 329), stroke (n = 213), epilepsy (n = 113), circulatory failure (n = 60), infection (n = 56), metabolic disorder (n = 44), respiratory insufficiency (n = 33), and intracranial malignancy (n = 17). The hospital mortality rate among the 865 patients was 26.5%, varying from 0.9% for epilepsy to 71.7% for circulatory failure. The accumulated total 2-year mortality rate was 43.0%, varying from 13.7% for poisoning to 88.2% for malignancy. The level of consciousness on admission also influenced the prognosis: a GCS score of 3 to 6.


The prognosis in patients presenting with nontraumatic coma is serious and depends largely both on the level of consciousness on admission and on the etiology of the coma. Adding the suspected coma etiology to the routine coma grading of these emergencies may more accurately predict their prognosis.

Authors’ Affiliations

Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden


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© BioMed Central Ltd. 2010