All about brainstem death versus vegetative state; chances of recovery

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Photo from when Archie Battersbee was on life support in the UK’s NHS hospital.

Photo: Twitter

If you’ve read the international news or checked out social media posts, you may have seen the debate raging around #ArchieBattersbee.

The 12-year-old boy from Southend, Essex was on April 7, 2022 discovered unconscious by his mother following an incident at home. He was found with a ligature on his head, while his mother believes he was taking part in an online TikTok challenge known as the “blackout challenge”.

The boy was a talented gymnast who aspired to be on the Olympic team. He never regained consciousness.

According to some medical experts, Archie’s brain injury was not recoverable and even worsened the condition of his body and vital organs.

“Archie’s brain does something called ‘coning’, which is when pressure forces the brainstem through a small opening at the base of the skull where it meets the spinal cord. This process almost results in always brainstem death,” a former nurse wrote on a Twitter post.
It has been said that “Archie Battersbee’s MRIs showed that the cone was severe in his case, the brainstem and cerebellum sink further into his spine…”
What is brainstem death? Is it the same as being in a vegetative state? And what are the chances of recovery for one or the other?

Brain death:

The brainstem is located at the bottom of the brain and controls awareness, consciousness, breathing, and the ability to regulate the heart and blood pressure.

Any brainstem trauma – such as impact injury, fall, tumour, infection, internal bleeding, etc.

When the brainstem swells, it causes pressure to build up, leading to reduced blood flow to the brain and tissue damage. When the brainstem stops functioning, it cannot send messages to the body to control functions and cannot receive messages from the body. This damage is irreversible. Clinically, it is accepted that no one survives brainstem death.

Vegetative state:

The dictionary defines the vegetative state as a condition in which a medical patient is completely unresponsive to psychological and physical stimuli and shows no signs of higher brain function, being kept alive only by medical intervention.

This comes after significant brain damage, such as that suffered by F1 racing legend Michael Schumacher in a catastrophic skiing accident in 2013. Although this may be permanent (the affected person will never regain consciousness or start breathing again through They are legally confirmed dead, with the time on their death certificate recorded when they fail a catalog of tests.

It is scientifically possible for a person in a vegetative state to recover. This is because their brainstem, which controls breathing and heart rate, is still functioning, which means they may show signs of arousal, such as the ability to open their eyes.

Suicide, online challenges and mental illnesses in adolescents:

Meanwhile, well-meaning people have tried to raise awareness of the challenge that children may be susceptible to mental illnesses in these uncertain times that can harm a child’s state of mind.

In light of the #ArchieBattersbee stuff in the news. Please tell your children, grandchildren, etc. mental health, depression and suicide. This is a difficult subject but so important. Often times parents can be the last to know their kids are feeling this way,” reads Twitter.

Disclaimer: The tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your physician or dietitian before making any medical/clinical decision, beginning any fitness program, or changing your diet.

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