Locked in syndrome can occur from any injury or illness that results in both quadriplegia and the inability to communicate verbally but does not affect the person’s cognitive functioning. In general, those with locked in syndrome do not regain any motor function, but he or she can learn to communicate using eye movement, eye-gaze devices, and other computer-assisted technology.
Possible Causes of Locked In Syndrome
Locked in syndrome may occur because of several causes, although it is rare and other outcomes are much more likely. Often, locked in syndrome is the result of some issue that affects the brain stem. This could include:
- A stroke that affects the brain stem
- A brain hemorrhage involving the basilar artery which provides blood flow to the brain stem
- A traumatic injury to the brain stem
- A lesion or tumor on the brain stem
Other possible causes include damage from neurotoxic poisons including:
- Poisoning, often when the poison cannot cross the blood-brain barrier
- Snake bites or other bites involving neurotoxic venom
Some other illnesses and injuries have the potential to cause locked in syndrome, but it is difficult to track cause and prevalence since the condition is rare and likely under-reported. This includes:
- Some diseases of the circulatory system
- Damage to nerve cells and/or the myelin sheath
- Osmotic demyelination syndrome
- Traumatic brain injury
Diagnosing Locked In Syndrome
Diagnosing this condition requires the doctors to confirm the person has no motor function in their limbs or trunk and cannot speak but retains full cognitive abilities and awareness. It is imperative that health care providers accurately describe the person’s condition as locked in syndrome and recognize he or she are aware of their surroundings and those who love them.
In addition to tests for motor and sensory control — which the person will likely fail — he or she will undergo an electroencephalogram (EEG) to check for brain activity. In cases where the person is brain dead or significantly cognitively impaired, the EEG will not show normal activity. In someone with locked in syndrome, the results should show normal brain activity as well as normal sleep-wake cycles.
Treatment and Care for Patients With Locked In Syndrome
There is no known cure for locked in syndrome that occurs because of damage to the brain stem, poison or venom, or other illness or injury. Those who receive this diagnosis generally do not recover motor function. Their doctors offer support for breathing, hydration, and nutrition, and work to prevent further injuries such as bed sores.
While there is no cure and no way to recover lost motor function, there are many types of assistive equipment that can make everyday life easier on the person and their family. Lifts, hospital beds, and power wheelchairs make it possible to get out of bed and experience the world while communication tools make it possible to talk about it.
Technology has — and will likely continue to — improve the quality of life for those with locked in syndrome. This includes:
- Eye gaze devices
- Brain-computer interfaces
- Other communication and mobility devices
Pursuing Compensation for Locked In Syndrome
Locked in syndrome is not always preventable but getting an accurate diagnosis and medical assistance is key in maintaining the quality of life. In some cases, your family may be eligible to pursue compensation through a medical malpractice or personal injury case. This may be true if:
- Your family member suffered locked in syndrome following a stroke or other medical emergency that did not receive prompt diagnosis and treatment; or
- Locked in syndrome occurred because of a surgical or medical error; or
- Your loved one’s doctor failed to diagnose locked in syndrome when other doctors would have identified it earlier; or
- Your loved one suffered a brain injury and locked in syndrome because of another type of negligence accident
If your family member has a locked in syndrome diagnosis, let the team from Pintas & Mullins review your case. We can explain your loved one’s rights and your options for pursuing compensation. Our case reviews and consultations are always free.
If you qualify, we can take legal action on your behalf, going after the damages your family deserves to help you cover ongoing care costs and other expenses. This may include:
- Medical treatment
- Ongoing and future care costs
- Lost wages
- Diminished earning capacity
- Out-of-pocket costs
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
Call us today at 1-866-611-BASC for a free case evaluation and consultation with a member of our team.