Background: Consciousness in patients with brain injury is traditionally assessed based on semiological evaluation at the bedside. This classification is limited because of low granularity, ill-defined and rigid nomenclatures incompatible with the highly fluctuating nature of consciousness, failure to identify specific brain states like cognitive motor dissociation, and neglect for underlying biological mechanisms. Here, the authors present a pragmatic framework based on consciousness endotypes that combines clinical phenomenology with all essential physiological and biological data, emphasizing recovery trajectories, therapeutic potentials and clinical feasibility. Methods: The Neurocritical Care Society’s Curing Coma Campaign identified an international group of experts who convened in a series of online meetings between May and November 2020 to discuss and propose a novel framework for classifying consciousness. Results: The expert group proposes Advanced Classification of Consciousness Endotypes (ACCESS), a tiered multidimensional framework reflecting increasing complexity and an aspiration to consider emerging and future approaches. Tier 1 is based on clinical phenotypes and structural imaging. Tier 2 adds functional measures including EEG, PET and functional MRI, that can be summarized using the Arousal, Volition, Cognition and Mechanisms (AVCM) score (where “Volition” signifies volitional motor responses). Finally, Tier 3 reflects dynamic changes over time with a (theoretically infinite) number of physiologically distinct states to outline consciousness recovery and identify opportunities for therapeutic interventions. Conclusions: Whereas Tiers 1 and 2 propose an approach for low-resource settings and state-of-the-art expertise at leading academic centers, respectively, Tier 3 is a visionary multidimensional consciousness paradigm driven by continuous incorporation of new knowledge while addressing the Curing Coma Campaign’s aspirational goals.
- Brain injury
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging