Covenant physician explains brain death - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Covenant physician explains brain death

Pictured: Ryan Lewis, Covenant emergency medicine physician Pictured: Ryan Lewis, Covenant emergency medicine physician
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -

It's difficult for Marlise Munoz's parents to see her now.

On Saturday, a Texas judge ordered that Munoz be taken off life support. According to court documents, she's been brain dead since November 28th.

But what does brain death really mean? Ryan Lewis, a Covenant emergency medicine physician, said that many people confuse it with being in a coma.

"Brain death is very different than a coma," Lewis said. "A coma is something that's a decreased level of consciousness, but while you're in a coma, you still have your body systems that are continuing to function. Brain death in legal terms requires many criteria to be met. There has to be certain exclusion criteria, and you have to have an absence of cerebral function and brain stem function."

A long-term coma can become a vegetative state. In a rare number of circumstances, patients have come out of that.

But, if diagnosed correctly, brain death is permanent.

"To be classified as brain dead there is a cessation of all life," Lewis sad. "It's irreversible. You have to look at brain stem function. The brain stem drives our most basic functions for keeping us alive, so the definition of brain death basically implies that the body is unable to use any systems that can keep us alive.

To test for brain death, doctors check for blood flow and electrical activity in the brain.

They perform tests such as shining a light in the eyes to see if the pupils move and constrict, and gently rubbing the eyeballs with a cotton ball to test for a reaction. Sometimes they put ice water into the ears and see if the eyes move in that direction.

"There are certain tests that we check for what's called apnea, or lack of respiration," Lewis said. "Certain basic reflexes - corneal reflexes - any type of cranial nerve function is looked at."

Doctors perform these tests multiple times over a 48 hour timeline to check for activity in the brainstem.

Copyright 2014 KCBD. All rights reserved.

  • Region 8 News</span><a class="customMoreLink" href="/Global/category.asp?C=4391" target="_top">More >></a>Region 8 NewsMore>>

  • Silver Alert canceled for missing MO woman, found safe

    Silver Alert canceled for missing MO woman, found safe

    Tuesday, April 24 2018 9:18 AM EDT2018-04-24 13:18:11 GMT
    (Source: Missouri State Highway Patrol)(Source: Missouri State Highway Patrol)

    Ripley County authorities say a missing Naylor woman was found safe.

    Ripley County authorities say a missing Naylor woman was found safe.

  • Elderly man seriously hurt in Monday evening crash

    Elderly man seriously hurt in Monday evening crash

    Tuesday, April 24 2018 8:38 AM EDT2018-04-24 12:38:28 GMT
    (Source: AP Graphics Bank)(Source: AP Graphics Bank)
    (Source: AP Graphics Bank)(Source: AP Graphics Bank)

    A crash in Southeast Missouri seriously hurt an elderly man Monday evening.

    A crash in Southeast Missouri seriously hurt an elderly man Monday evening.

  • Parents react to cameras in classrooms

    Parents react to cameras in classrooms

    Tuesday, April 24 2018 12:00 AM EDT2018-04-24 04:00:06 GMT
    (Source: KARK)(Source: KARK)
    (Source: KARK)(Source: KARK)

    The topic of cameras in self-contained special education classrooms had lawmakers and parents debating at Monday's education committee meeting.

    The topic of cameras in self-contained special education classrooms had lawmakers and parents debating at Monday's education committee meeting.

Powered by Frankly