The area of the brain that can cause locked-in syndrome (the pons) following a stroke is the same area of the brain that regulates pace and depth of autonomic breathing. For this reason, there is significant danger of pulmonary complications with locked-in syndrome.
This is true both during the acute phase of a stroke that leads to locked-in syndrome and in patients who remain bed-bound following a diagnosis. Pulmonary complications with locked in syndrome are the leading cause of death after pontine stroke, according to a study in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. They are also a leading cause of death after a spinal cord injury, according to a 2005 study published in the BMJ.
Emergency Treatment Often Focuses on Respiratory Support
During the stroke and in the next hours and days, the patient’s breathing is usually severely impaired. The doctors may need to focus on maintaining an airway and ensuring adequate oxygenation before he or she can take on restoring blood flow in the brain.
Most people who suffer from this type of brain injury need assisted ventilation, a tracheotomy, or other intensive respiratory support during their initial treatment. As the days go by, the doctor will likely prescribe respiratory therapies to try to wean the patient off the ventilator.
In the study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, more than half of all those studied regained the ability to breathe on their own before being released from the hospital.
Ongoing Treatment Can Reduce the Risk of Pulmonary Complications
Like most bed-bound patients, those with locked-in syndrome are at an increased risk of aspirating on bronchial secretions and developing pneumonia and other pulmonary complications. To limit complications, patients may require ongoing therapies that include:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Frequent positional changes
- Assistance with postural drainage
- Suctioning of mucus and secretions
- Other types of chest physiotherapy
Prevention of pneumonia and other secondary infections is key to long-term survival. Studies show that as many as 80 percent of those diagnosed with locked-in syndrome who survive the initial treatment survive for at least 10 years, according to the study published in the BMJ.
You May Be Eligible to Pursue Compensation for Locked-In Treatment and Ongoing Care
If doctors diagnosed your loved one with locked-in syndrome after a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or another event, you may be eligible to pursue compensation to help pay for their treatment, rehabilitation, and ongoing care. Let the team from Newsome | Melton review the facts of your loved one’s case.
The attorneys from Newsome | Melton handle complex civil litigation. We may be able to identify negligence as a factor in your loved one’s case. This could occur because of:
- A car accident or other traumatic injury
- A violent attack
- Medical malpractice
Call (800) 917-5888 today for your free case review.