Michael Schumacher has 'blinked' and 'responding to instructions': report

Doctors started on Thursday to try and coax the Formula One legend out of an artificial deep sleep he has been placed in after a near-fatal ski fall in December.

Updated: January 31, 2014 21:43 IST
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It will come as really good news to Michael Schumacher fans. British newspaper The Telegraph, has quoted a French newspaper which has reported that the former Formula One world champion is responding to instructions as doctors started on Thursday to try and coax the German legend out of an artificial deep sleep he was placed in after a near-fatal ski fall in December. (Schumacher will take time to wake up: doctor)

The Telegraph on Thursday reported that the L'Equipe newspaper, citing "very reliable sources", said Schumacher has responded "positively" to several neurological tests since Monday. Apparently, the 45-year-old former Ferrari driver, has even "blinked" during tests.

L'Equipe is not the only paper that has reported that Schumacher is responding positively. SKY News has also quoted its sources suggesting Schumacher is responding to instructions. Schumacher was plunged into an artificial coma after suffering brain injury in his near-fatal skiing accident on December 29 in the French resort of Meribel. (Doctors trying to bring Schumacher out of coma: manager)

Emerging from an extended, drug-induced coma could take several days or not happen at all, medical experts say. After a progressive reduction of the sedative dose, it can take several more days for the last drug traces in a patient's system to disappear, according to Gerard Audibert, a neurosurgeon at the University Hospital in Nancy, eastern France. "There is a grey zone (between wake and sleep) that lasts several days, but it varies from one patient to another," he said. (Schumacher being woken up from induced coma: reports)

But awakening is not guaranteed. "The patient may well stay in a coma," said Audibert. When it does happen, the awakening is always "visible", according to Parisian anaesthesiologist Bernard Vigue: "the patient opens his eyes or moves a bit".

The purpose of an induced coma is to allow the brain to rest so as to lower the pressure inside the skull caused by bruising and bleeding in the brain. Once the pressure had been lowered and stabilised, doctors can start lifting an induced coma, said Audibert.

Also factored into the decision is the patient's vital functions and ability to breathe independently -- all artificial coma patients require a ventilator. Doctors would now watch the patient for any response to external stimuli like voice commands, while also monitoring his brain with scanners. (Schumacher's fate still uncertain)

A patient's loved ones play a crucial role at this stage by helping to coax the patient out of sleep, say the experts -- also later to help stimulate the brain back to health.

Vigue said Schumacher could have months, if not years, of therapy ahead of him. "Recovery can be a very long road. In some case, patients improve between a year and three years later," he said.

(with AFP inputs)

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