Treatment for Coma

Patients who are unresponsive require immediate treatment in order to avoid serious consequences.

The "Coma Cocktail"

Although the treatment of coma depends on the cause, there are some general treatment rules. If the cause is unknown, what is often called a "coma cocktail" is given to the patient. It's a mixture of thiamin (a vitamin that can help in alcoholic or nutritionally starved patients), glucose (a sugar that can help diabetics who have developed a coma due to low sugar level), and naloxene (a substance that reverses the action of many narcotics and is used to treat overdoses).

Correcting for Electrolyte Imbalance or Toxic Substances

Electrolytes are chemicals like salts, such as sodium and chlorine salts, that are found in the blood and tissues throughout the body and play an essential role in most physiological processes. Depending on what has caused the coma, it may be necessary to correct any electrolyte abnormalities. A renal dialysis, for example, is a process that removes toxins and maintains normal electrolyte balance in the kidneys.

Decreasing Intracranial Pressure

If the coma is related to increased pressure in the brain, there are various things that can be done to reduce it, including hyperventilation, diuretics, and surgery. Hyperventilation involves increasing the rate and depth of breathing so that the blood vessels in the brain constrict and the blood flow slows down, which can decrease the brain pressure. Diuretics, also known as fluid pills, can decrease brain pressure by removing excess fluid in the brain. If there is an accumulation of fluid in the ventricles—known as hydrocephalus—surgery can remove excess fluid, which can also decrease the intracranial pressure.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jan 2000

Last Modified: 08 Sep 2015