Working with comatose patients

December 16, 2007 at 10:30 pm Leave a comment

Luckily, I don’t work with too many patients who are comatose, but I’ve had weeks where I will suddenly see 3 or 4 patients in one week who are comatose. This usually happens because the patient is for the most part medically stable, and they now need placement. Most facilities won’t accept patients without having some sort of level of care, so they call upon the therapists to determine what the patients can and cannot do.

What I find interesting is that for the most part, the exact same evaluation will take place from OT, PT, and SLP. My hospital seems to favor the JFK Coma Recovery Scale, and both the OTs and PTs use the scale as their evaluation. What ends up happening is that we both do the exact same thing based on the exact same scale, yet bill differently. And Medicare accepts this. If the patient was not comatose, Medicare would never pay for two disciplines to do the exact same thing. Go figure.

When the patient is comatose, it is obviously hard to complete ADLs, but we end up usually seeing what stimuli work to arouse the patient. Can the patient follow a 1-step command consistently (i.e. give a thumbs up)? Do they respond to pain? The link to the scale is here (pdf) and is for the most part self-explanatory, should you want to know more information.

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Entry filed under: acute care, hospital, occupational therapy, OT, phys dys, PT, treatment. Tags: , , , , , .

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