What is a "medically induced coma"?

What exactly is this? Under what circumstances do doctors choose this option? How is it done?

One of my kids’ friends was in a significant car accident a few days ago. Word thru the grapevine is that the youngster is being kept in a medically induced coma, for reasons unknown. Do they do this to handle extreme pain? Or is it something to do with head injuries?

Thanks in advance to all the medical experts on the board, as this treatment is unknown to me.

A quick Googling shows it’s used for head injuries and severe pain. A combination of sedatives, opiates and anesthesia seem to be the way to go.

I was put in one after my accident for pain management, no (significant) head injury in my case.

Following head trauma, the brain often swells. Since the skull is rigid and inflexible this can lead to the brain getting squashed up against the inside of the skull and, more importantly, part of the brain getting pushed out through the hole in the bottom of the skull. Not a good thing. Look here, under “tonsillar herniation”.

Look here for a summary of induced coma.

Somebody I know was in an induced coma after a major heart problem with other complications added in. It was for pain management and the need for immobility. This went on for over two months of induced coma with a brief awake period after more than a month so the spouse could talk with them.

Istn’t Ariel Sharon still in a MIC?

He might have been put into a coma four years ago, but he’s now in a persistent vegetative state.

My understanding of these comas is that they are used to speed up healing for people in a precarious situation. If the body doesn’t have to devote support all the activities associated with being conscious and moving around, it can put more of its resources into healing. (One of my brothers was in a medically induced coma for a few weeks in early 2007 following a series of brain surgeries.) Harmonious Discord makes another good point - in some cases the patient could hurt himself if he’s able to move around, so you want to prevent that until the danger has passed.

My nephew was in something like this.

He was 8 years old, and had just had major surgery on his legs at a Shriners Hopsital to try to deal with some birth defects. They thought it was very important that he not move his legs for 12-24 hours after the surgery, to give the reconnected tendons/ligaments time to stabilize.

So they doped him up with morphine, to the point that he appeared to be in a coma, asleep & unresponsive, and kept him that way for a day or so.

IIRC, they used a medically-induced coma to save that one girl who contracted rabies. (Incidentally, she’s the first recorded person to ever have survived rabies, which I think is freaking fascinating. IIalsoRC, she had to relearn a ton, so it wasn’t an easy road to recovery.)

The wiki article says that they’ve since tried the Milwaukee protocol again with other rabies victims and have had four more successes.

I also think I remember that they use medically-induced comas to ease the suffering of people who have contracted rabies but did not get it treated in the narrow window you have to get the shots. It’s a horrible way to die, so they used the coma to try to make it better. I could be misremembering, however.