35-year-old Tomasz has been in a coma since May. He had a brain stimulator implanted two weeks ago at the University Hospital in Olsztyn. He is now completely conscious, understands what is being said and responds to it.
At the same time the patient is upset. He is now very aware of his physical state. He suffers from spastic paresis. We try to explain to him that first he needs to undergo rehabilitation – says neurosurgeon Wojciech Maksymowicz – This is the case of just one patient. We need more statistics to be sure of the effects of the brain stimulator.
Tomasz was in a coma because of an accident he had in May. He fell off a three-metre-high wall trying to help his friend who had an epileptic attack. At first everything seemed fine, he even came home on foot. By the time he got there, there was a fist-size haematoma in his brain. The damage was so severe that at the beginning the doctors said there were no chance Tomasz would ever fully recover.
There were some signs of improvement observed among other patients. Some of them smile or express other emotions clearly visible on their faces, some of them can even focus their vision on a TV show.
First procedures in May
The first procedure of this kind for Poland was conducted in May by dr Maksymowicz’s team, under the direction of Japanese neurosurgeon prof. Isao Morita (he conducted 300 operations like that in Japan). The Polish surgeons carried out the procedures on their own. Tomasz was one of their patients.
In order to implant a brain stimulator surgeons need to open the spinal canal and put an electrode above the dura mater of the spinal cord. The stimulator is placed outside the body and it sends electricity to the electrode which is supposed to stimulate the brain stem.
The stimulator is connected to the electrode by a cord that runs under the skin. It sends an impulse to the brain every 15 min. The stimulated tissue gets more blood and is better nourished. Therefore neurons, which survived the accident, can function much better.
The stimulation of the brain is supposed to enable coma patients to regain consciousness.