London: Michael Schumacher may take weeks or months to come out fully from the artificial coma he has been in for five weeks, following his skiing accident, say experts.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, there are still no guarantees the seven-times F1 champion will recover his health completely.
As the anaesthetic dose that was used to keep him in an induced coma was being slowly reduced, doctors treating him would be expanding the tests on his reflexes, the report said.
“These are to ascertain if the nerves leading to the brain and back to the muscles are functioning,” said Professor Heinzpeter Moecke, head of the Institute for Emergency Medicine in Hamburg.
Schumacher, who spent his 45th birthday in the medically induced coma at Grenoble Hospital, is having his joints and limbs massaged daily to prevent muscles atrophy.
Earlier this week, he was said to have been ‘responding to instructions’ as doctors gradually began the process of slowly bringing him out of his coma. The seven-time F1 world champion is also reported to have blinked during brain tests. He had undergone a number of neurological examinations since Monday and has responded ‘positively’, according to L’Equipe newspaper which cited ‘very reliable sources’.
After gradually reducing the sedation of the patient, the team of head doctor Emmanuel Gay have been testing his neurological reflexes since Monday.
“During the early stages the patient blinked,” the leading sports newspaper had reported.
Schumacher suffered serious head injuries when he fell and hit the right side of his head on a rock in the French resort of Meribel on December 29. He has been in an induced coma in Grenoble University Hospital since then, although his condition stabilised following surgery, after initially being described as critical.
“Michael’s sedation is being reduced in order to allow the start of the waking up process which may take a long time,” Schumacher’s manager, Sabine Kehm, had said in a statement.
Schumacher was being kept artificially sedated and his body temperature was lowered to between 93.2 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, to reduce swelling in the brain, reduce its energy consumption and allow it to rest. Kehm had said she was only providing an update on Schumacher’s condition to clarify media leaks, and that no further details would be provided.
French newspaper 'Equipe first reported on Wednesday that doctors had started trying to wake up Schumacher. Experts said it was a good sign that Schumacher’s doctors were trying to bring him out of the coma and that the first 24 hours would be critical.
“It means they have probably seen that the pressure in his skull has reduced,” said Dr Clemens Pahl, a brain trauma expert at King’s College Hospital in London, according to the Daily Mail report.
Dr Pahl warned that if Schumacher hasn’t recovered enough to wake up on his own, doctors might need to put him back in the coma. “It could be that swelling in his brain hasn’t come to an end yet, so they might need to increase the medications again,” he said.
He said this wasn’t uncommon in patients with brain injuries and that sometimes it took several attempts to bring someone out of an induced coma. Brain experts said it will be fundamental to determine whether Schumacher was aware of his surroundings and could respond to basic commands from doctors, like raising his hand.
“This is a test to see what his function is like,” said Dr. Anthony Strong, an emeritus chair in neurosurgery at King’s College London.
He said that once the sedatives wear off, Schumacher’s doctors would see if he can breathe on his own and if he responds to mild pain stimulus, like gentle pressing on his eyebrows.
“Doctors will want to see if he can say ‘hello’, if he can probe his recollection of events and to see if he can recognise family members and remember his own identity,” Strong said. (Agencies)