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Being unconscious

Men and women discussing brain tumours

This page tells you about being unconscious. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Being unconscious

Most people come round fairly quickly after brain surgery. But some people are unconscious for a few days or more. You and your relatives may have been warned beforehand to expect this. Some people are unconscious for longer than expected but this doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t make a full recovery.

The breathing machine (ventilator)

While you are unconscious you may be on a ventilator. This is a machine that breathes for you. The ventilator connects to a tube that goes down your throat and in to the main airway at the top of your lungs. Often the tube goes in through your mouth. Sometimes it goes straight into the airway through a small hole in your neck called a tracheostomy.

Keeping you comfortable

While you are unconscious your nurses will turn you from side to side regularly to stop you getting pressure sores. If you are unconscious for more than 3 or 4 days you will have liquid feeds through a tube that goes through your nose into your stomach.

Your nurses will clean your eyes and mouth regularly and give you a full wash every day. This is important to keep your skin healthy.

Talking to you

It is very common for people to be able to hear, even though they do not appear to be awake. Your relatives can talk to you and bring you music to listen to.

 

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Being unconscious

Most people come round fairly quickly after brain surgery. But in a few situations, you may be unconscious for a few days or more.

Your surgeon may expect this. If so, they will warn you and your relatives beforehand. But sometimes, people are unconscious for longer than expected. This doesn't necessarily mean you won't make a full recovery. You are just taking longer to get over the immediate effects of the operation.

While you are unconscious you may be on a ventilator.

 

The breathing machine (ventilator)

The ventilator is a machine that breathes for you. You are most likely to have this if you have had surgery to your brain stem. Or you may have it if you had trouble breathing at any stage in the surgery or recovery period.

The ventilator connects to a tube that goes down your throat and into the main airway at the top of your lungs. Often, the tube goes into your mouth. Sometimes, it goes straight into the airway through a small hole in your neck called a tracheostomy. There are a number of reasons why you may have a tracheostomy. It is easier for your nurses to keep your airways clear of mucous. Or you may need one if you had swelling in your neck or throat after your surgery.

The idea of being on a ventilator can be quite frightening. Your treatment team will give you medicines to help you relax. But some people say it can be comforting to think that the ventilator machine is working for them.

Diagram of a person on a ventilator

 

Keeping you comfortable

While you are unconscious, your nurses will turn you from side to side regularly, to stop you getting pressure sores. If you are unconscious for more than 3 or 4 days, you will have liquid feeds through the tube that goes down your nose and into your stomach.

Your nurses will also clean your eyes and mouth every hour or so. And they will give you a full wash every day. It is important to keep your skin clean to keep it healthy. Your relatives may be able to help them with these tasks. This can help them to feel they are helping you, which they are.

 

Talking to you

Your nurses will explain to your family that you might be able to hear what is said to you at times. It is very common for people to be able to hear what is around them even though they do not appear at all awake. Your relatives can tell you any news or talk to you about anything they think will interest you. They can also bring in music for you to listen to.

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Updated: 27 December 2013