Jean-Marc Orgogozo, professor of neurology at the University of Bordeaux, has been quoted by the Daily Mirror as saying: “Every day, every week in a coma the chances decline that the situation is improving.”
An Austrian news agency Format reported on Tuesday as saying that there is now an ever increasing chance that Schumacher might be left in a persistent vegetative state when he finally emerges from his coma.
The Daily Mirror spoke to another consultant neurosurgeon, Colin Schieff, who said that – while too early to say – doctors in France were correct to warn Schumacher’s family that he may end up in a persistent vegetative state, also known as Apallic Syndrome.
A vegetative state is a disorder of consciousness where a brain-damaged patient is in a state of partial arousal: the body is not dead, and the brain has a limited functionality, but there is no awareness or responsiveness even if the patient is awake.
The persistent vegetative state (or PVS) cannot be diagnosed until at least four weeks after the initial lapse into permanent unconsciousness, while it can only be deemed permanent after 12 months.
At this moment in time Schumacher is in a coma – which means he is neither aware nor aware of what's going on – so a vegetative state cannot be diagnosed until doctors allow him to emerge from his current state, which is being maintained in order to allow the damaged areas of the brain to heal.
The fear is that, when doctors to eventually allow him to come out of the coma, there will be little impact on his quality of life – he would essentially be brain dead.
However, many patients do recover from such injuries.
Around half of patients who are in a vegetative state a month after injury are able to recover consciousness within a year; chances of recovery are linked to the extent of the brain injury, the patient’s age and physical fitness. Schumacher’s excellent physical condition would, in theory, could aid any recovery.
But the longer Schumacher remains in a coma, and the longer it takes for him to regain consciousness, the worse his chances become. Patients who stay in a PVS for a year or longer rarely make any sort of recovery.
One Tuesday, his wife Corinna again thanked fans for all their support.
"We all know: he is a fighter and will not give up!," she said.
"We are deeply moved that there is no let-up in the good wishes for Michael from around the world. That gives us strength. Thank you all of you!”