Michael Schumacher’s manager has officially confirmed that the German’s treating doctors have begun to lighten his sedation to allow a ‘waking up process’ to start.
Aside from some hopelessly ill-informed media reports, the official word from Michael Schumacher’s camp has been quiet over the last week or so, a month on from his skiing accident which left the seven-time Formula 1 World Champion in an induced coma with serious head injuries.
“Michael’s sedation is being reduced in order to allow the start of the waking up process which may take long time,” an official statement from his manager, Sabine Kehm, reads.
“For the protection of the family, it was originally agreed by the interested parties to communicate this information only once this process was consolidated.
“The family of Michael Schumacher is again requesting to respect its privacy and the medical secret, and to not disturb the doctors treating Michael in their work. At the same time, the family wishes to express sincere appreciation for the worldwide sympathy.”
A word of caution…
By no means does this mean we can start expecting rapid-fire announcements about his progress or a sudden and dramatic improvement in his condition.
Schumacher has remained at an intense level of sedation for the last month, deep enough to suppress much of the electrical activity in the outer layers of his brain (known as the cerebral cortex) which are responsible for high-level intellectual functioning. These steps were taken to reduce the high level of intracranial pressure immediately following his accident.
His sedation being reduced means that his intracranial pressure is no longer of concern and the most acute phases of his injury have passed.
Given the recent lack of information about his treatment, it’s safe to assume that Schumacher was intubated – via a tracheostomy – and has remained on this ventilation ever since.
One of the aims of lightening his sedation will be to evaluate if Schumacher can be taken off the ventilation in order to see if he breathe on his own. This will form one of the earliest levels in a number of stages of neurological evaluation.
His progress – whatever that may look like – will continue at an unknown rate. The ultimate functional abilities he may have will, in turn, remain unknown for some time.
That being said, it could well be that the attempts to wean him off sedation and ventilation could prove unsuccessful, which would suggest catastrophic levels of brain injury have occurred from which he could never recover.
We don’t profess to be experts on the issue – although a year studying neuroscience in university does give us a bit of knowledge on the topic – and you would be well-advised to read the excellent writing of the FIA’s former chief medical delegate, Dr Gary Harstein, who has written some terrific articles on his blog.
All we can do is wait and continue to rely only on the official information coming from Schumacher’s family, management or by an official statement from his treating hospital. Any other publication – no matter how well sourced it may claim to be – should be disregarded.
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