A patient using assistive technologies surrounded by family and TIRR Memorial Hermann staff

The TIRR Memorial Hermann Disorders of Consciousness (DoC) Program focuses on patients in a vegetative or minimally conscious state. Although these patients are often not ready to begin a traditional rehabilitation program, they can significantly benefit from a program that specializes in treating disorders of consciousness. The Disorders of Consciousness Program applies state-of-the-art advances to assess and treat these patients to help maximize their potential recoveries and outcomes.

Studies have shown that 35 to 40 percent of patients with disorders of consciousness are misdiagnosed and undertreated. Frequently thought of as vegetative, many are either conscious or minimally conscious.1

What Are Disorders of Consciousness?

A disorder of consciousness is a condition of altered consciousness in which a patient has severely impaired levels of awareness and wakefulness. Examples include patients who are in coma, a vegetative state or a minimally conscious state.

What Causes Disorders of Consciousness?

A disorder of consciousness is often seen following a severe traumatic brain injury, an anoxic brain injury or stroke.

1 Advancing Best Practices in the Treatment of Patients with Disorders of Consciousness

Who Does the Disorders of Consciousness Program Treat?

The Disorders of Consciousness Program treats patients who are still unconscious or have just recovered consciousness. This includes patients who are not yet communicating or following commands, and patients who have just begun to communicate or follow commands but do so inconsistently.

What Are the Benefits of the Disorders of Consciousness Program?

The TIRR Memorial Hermann team works with patients and their families to:

  • Assess the patient’s current level of consciousness
  • Evaluate treatable medical or neurological barriers to the recovery of consciousness
  • Improve the patient’s level of alertness through medications and other therapeutic interventions
  • Identify ways to establish consistent communication
  • Initiate an intensive mobility program, beginning with sitting in a wheelchair and progressing to standing
  • Address spasticity and contractures to maximize potential for functional recovery
  • Utilize recent technological advances, as needed to enhance outcomes
  • Prevent secondary complications and reduce the risk of recurrent hospitalizations
  • Offer specialized education, training and support for families and caregivers
  • Provide opportunities to participate in the latest research on assessing and treating disorders of consciousness

Meet the TIRR Memorial Hermann Team

We have a knowledgeable outpatient interdisciplinary team that may include:

  • Physical therapist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Speech language pathologist
  • Neuropsychologist
  • Clinical social worker
  • Vocational counselor
  • Wheelchair seating and positioning specialist
  • Chaplain

Additional team members of an inpatient stay may include:

  • Affiliated rehabilitation physician
  • Rehabilitation nursing
  • Therapeutic recreation therapist
  • Music therapist
  • Clinical pharmacist
  • Case Manager
  • Nutritionist

Patient Stories

  • TIRR Memorial Hermann brain injury patient Corey Nowlin

    Corey Nowlin: Learning to Communicate

    February 19, 2021

    In April 2020, Corey Nowlin suffered a severe head injury. Today, thanks to the TIRR Memorial Hermann’s Disorders of Consciousness program, he’s able to communicate again.

    Read More
  • Jaclyn Pelicotte smiling in front of a fountain

    Jaclyn Pellicotte: Small Steps Toward Her Goals

    September 30, 2019

    When Jaclyn was admitted to the TIRR Memorial Hermann Disorders of Consciousness (DoC) Program, she was not responding to any commands. But the first thing the therapist said when she arrived at TIRR Memorial Hermann was, ‘we’re going to get her up.’ At that point Jaclyn had bee...

    Read More
  • River Rasmussen with Aryia and his therapist

    River Rasmussen: A Family Finds Hope

    August 10, 2018

    After an automobile accident left him bedridden and unresponsive, River's sister found hope for him with the TIRR Memorial Hermann Disorders of Consciousness Rehabilitation Program.

    Read More
  • John Keller

    John Keller: Miracle in Progress

    December 31, 2014

    When 33-year-old John Keller was first admitted to TIRR Memorial Hermann on March 26, 2008, he was in a vegetative state. On impact, Keller suffered a fractured skull and pelvis and an intracranial hemorrhage resulting in a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Nine days later, he was transferred ...

    Read More

In The News

  • Houston Chronicle logo

    Alive inside: How a Houston hospital restores patients with severe brain injuries

    HOUSTON (December 11, 2017)

    Across the country, thousands of people with severe brain injuries are wrongly labeled as unconscious each year. Among them, a small number make it to a Houston rehab hospital, where those with even the worst injuries get a shot at recovery.

    Read More
  • Houston Chronicle Logo

    Kothari: It’s time to talk about life, death and brain trauma

    HOUSTON (December 11, 2017)

    Thousands of people are wrongly labeled unconscious after severe brain injuries each year. Some have their life support withdrawn; some are sent to nursing homes and left to lay in bed, aware but unable to show it. A fortunate few make it to a Houston rehab hospital, where those with even the wor...

    Read More

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For the 31st consecutive year, TIRR Memorial Hermann is recognized as the best rehabilitation hospital in Texas and No. 3 in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report's "Best Rehabilitation Hospitals" in America.

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