Large study confirms locked-in syndrome as the predominant outcome of non-fatal pediatric drowning


It’s a far cry from the historically thought-of “vegetative state” during which the thoughts is absent whereas the physique lives on. Certainly, it’s the reverse. Youngsters with “locked-in syndrome,” unable to maneuver or converse, are awake and absolutely conscious of their environment.

Researchers from The College of Texas Well being Science Middle at San Antonio (UT Well being San Antonio) have been the primary to report in peer-reviewed medical literature that, after non-fatal drownings, youngsters could be locked in. The crew, directed by Peter T. Fox, MD, professor of radiology and neurology and director of UT Well being San Antonio’s Analysis Imaging Institute, described a set of options in mind imaging research that recognized the trigger and clarification of locked-in syndrome.

The primary 11 pediatric drowning survivors have been imaged at UT Well being San Antonio within the 2010s. Now, in follow-up analysis revealed within the journal Pediatric Neurology, the crew stories the most important examine up to now on the topic. The not too long ago revealed evaluation of 154 youngsters confirms that the predominant end result of non-fatal pediatric drowning is locked-in syndrome.

Within the analysis, 60% of kids who survived drowning occasions (93 of 154) have been labeled as locked in by household caregivers surveyed by UT Well being San Antonio.

The vary of incapacity within the youngsters was giant. About one-fourth have been mildly impaired, very practically regular in all capabilities. Half have been reasonably impaired motorically however with preserved cognition and notion. One-fourth have been severely impaired motorically, however much less spared cognitively. Of the average and extreme teams, practically 80% have been locked-in.”

Peter T. Fox, MD, professor of radiology and neurology and director of UT Well being San Antonio’s Analysis Imaging Institute

Caregivers in tune with the youngsters

Caregivers have been recognized and surveyed between 2018 and 2021 after Fox and colleagues revealed the preliminary mind imaging research of pediatric non-fatal drowning in 2016 and 2017. Fox stated the information obtained from the survey was clear and highly effective.

“The take-home from that is that the mother and father and different caregivers of locked-in youngsters actually perceive the cues they see and do an distinctive job sensing whether or not the youngsters are responding or not responding,” Fox stated.

“Physicians and the well being care crew ought to discover extra methods to have interaction the mother and father and caregivers and belief their observations,” he stated. “Caregivers are a really underutilized useful resource. We should be extra respectful and conscious of the standard of their observations.”

Remembering Conrad

The primary baby survivor to be imaged at UT Well being San Antonio was Conrad Tullis of San Antonio.

Conrad, born in 2002, survived drowning in 2004 and lived to be 20. He impressed many and attended all 12 grades of college, graduating within the Alamo Heights College District in San Antonio.

“The locked-in state of Conrad and the opposite youngsters was acknowledged first by the mother and father, which is essential to notice,” Fox stated. “This situation was dropped at my consideration by Liz Tullis, Conrad’s mother, who seen her son was responsive regardless that she was being informed he couldn’t perceive her. Tullis, together with different mother and father from a help group for fogeys of kids who survived a drowning, helped the crew recruit for the research.

“As mother and father, we all know our kids, and we are able to inform the distinction between responsive and unresponsive,” Tullis stated. “Whereas docs have been telling me my baby would by no means lead a significant life, I knew he was able to understanding and speaking with us, albeit he was non-verbal.”

Imaging gleans solutions

The mother and father had learn information tales concerning the Analysis Imaging Institute, a extremely specialised middle at UT Well being San Antonio that brings a number of imaging modalities (magnetic resonance imaging, purposeful MRI, positron emission tomography and extra) to bear on analysis questions. “They got here to ask if imaging might inform whether or not the docs have been proper in telling them that the youngsters weren’t acutely aware, or whether or not they, the caregivers, have been proper,” Fox stated.

The Analysis Imaging Institute’s imaging research revealed that cognitive and sensory networks are preserved within the brains of those youngsters. The harm doesn’t, as previously believed, influence the complete mind, however is confined to a small space. The findings supported mother and father’ conviction that their youngsters are experiencing feelings, studying new concepts and creating personalities. The analysis additionally created hope that sometime the mind harm may be treatable.

The brand new analysis didn’t embrace imaging however added experiences and observations of a a lot bigger group of affected people. “I am hoping that this new publication will make it possible to do extra investigation on this bigger cohort of kids, each imaging and different assessments,” Fox stated.

Conrad Syndrome

The researchers requested Pediatric Neurology editors to dedicate the article to Conrad Tullis and endorse the eponym “Conrad Syndrome” for locked-in state. The journal agreed.

Youngsters admitted to the hospital after non-fatal drownings had higher outcomes if their hospital keep required no medical intervention akin to intubation, the survey indicated. If the youngsters have been responsive, not in a coma, at admission and at discharge, their outcomes have been higher.

It could be potential sooner or later to make use of moveable imaging methods to check sufferers at dwelling for locked-in syndrome, Fox stated.


Journal reference:

Razaqyar, M. S., et al. (2024). Lengthy-term Neurocognitive Outcomes in Pediatric Non-Deadly Drowning: Outcomes of a Household Caregiver Survey. Pediatric Neurology.

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