Beth Chapman Is In A Medically-Induced Coma: What Does That Mean?

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Beth Chapman is in a medically-induced coma, a medical intervention that sounds alarming, but can be a life-saving intervention.

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, Chapman, 51, was hospitalized on Sunday night, and news of the medical intervention soon reached fans. Some likely concluded that it was due to her ongoing battle with throat cancer; however, some reports suggest that a choking emergency may have led to the intervention.

So, what is a medically-induced coma, and how often is it used? And more importantly, how many patients deliberately put into a coma survive?

What Is A Medically-Induced Coma?

As LiveScience explains, when a patient is put into a medically-induced coma, he or she is given a precisely-measured dose of sedatives, usually a propofol or, sometimes, a barbiturate such as phenobarbital, via an IV infusion.

Sometimes, the patient experiences stimuli, such as the sights and sounds of caregivers and family members moving about in the patient’s room, and the brain processes that stimuli into nightmares. Many patients who come out of medically-induced comas report having had nightmares during the ordeal.

When Are Medically-Induced Comas Administered?

Dr. Michael J. Souter, professor of anesthesiology and neurological surgery at the University of Washington, explains that the intervention is used when a patient is at high risk of a brain injury, such as due to trauma (like a gunshot), a drug overdose, seizures, or certain diseases.

The intervention ensures the “protection and control of the pressure dynamics of the brain,” says Dr. Souter. In other words, the intervention reduces the amount of electrical activity in the brain to the bare minimum, which slows down the organ’s metabolism, minimizing infection and swelling.

Patients put into medically-induced comas are generally brought out after a few days to a couple of weeks.

Despite high-profile news cases of people being put into such a coma — such as Tupac Shakur, Gabrielle Giffords, and a 12-year-old girl who had contracted a brain-eating amoeba — the intervention is actually extremely rare.

Are Medically-Induced Comas Survivable?

Like all comas, medically-induced comas carry certain risks, such as infection. However, considering that such an intervention is only used when the only other option is the patient’s death, the medical community generally considers it worth the risk.

As WebMD notes, the risk of death or permanent disability from a coma increases the longer a patient is in a coma. However, patients have been known to emerge, no worse for wear, after being in comas for weeks.