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Disorders of Consciousness

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 4, 2024.

What is a disorder of consciousness (DoC)?

A DoC is a condition that causes problems with being awake, aware, or both. The person may not be aware of himself or herself, or of the environment. It also may not be possible to wake or rouse the person. A DoC can range from mild to severe and can be temporary or permanent. Some DoCs can go away and then return.

What are the types of DoC?

Healthcare providers will do brain and nerve tests to check the person's responses, such as reflexes. The amount of response can help providers understand what kind of DoC the person may have. If no eye or body movement is seen, providers may check the person's response to sound or touch. The person may shift between the following states of consciousness:

What causes a DoC?

How is a DoC treated?

The cause of the DoC may be treated. If the cause is not known or cannot be treated, effects of the DoC may need to be treated:

What do I need to know about recovery from a DoC?

Recovery may also be called emergence. The person may emerge (become) conscious in stages. The ability to recover and the speed of recovery depends on what caused the DoC.

What can I do to help the person?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan the person's care. Learn about his or her health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with the person's healthcare providers to decide what care he or she will receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.