Content » Vol 53, Issue 5

Special report

New taxonomy for prolonged disorders of consciousness may help with decisions on withdrawal of clinically assisted nutrition and hydration: A proposed decision-making pathway

Liliana da Conceição Teixeira, Nuno Rocha, Rui Nunes
Center for Innovative Care and Health Technology (ciTechcare), Polytechnic of Leiria, Leiria, Portugal. E-mail:
DOI: 10.2340/16501977-2834


Pain, stiffness and joint deformity can result in significantly reduced hand function in people with osteoarthritis. Characteristic finger deformities in osteoarthritis are swan neck deformity and boutonnière deformity. Several studies have reported that an orthosis decreases pain and increases function during daily activities for patients with arthritis. The aim of this study was to review patient-reported outcomes of current conservative therapeutic management with silver ring splints (silversplints) for patients with osteoarthritis of the hand. There was a 76% improvement in overall daily functioning and a 74% reduction in pain. Several questions concerned daily activities with different types of hand function and with different types of grip and use of fingers. The results show a major improvement in both the more open grip of the hand and activities requiring fine motor skills. The ability to use force with the hand, even when wearing an orthosis, is an important result. Patients who experienced “no problems or minor problems” had significantly increased functioning in several activities of daily living, but the largest improvement in functioning was seen in “household chores” (243%), “opening jars” (150%) and “lifting groceries” (143%). Overall, silversplints appear to serve as a suitable support for the joints in osteoarthritis of the hand, providing pain relief by preventing the joint from moving through its full range of motion. Use of silversplints to treat patients with osteoarthritis of the hand should be considered as a useful, non-surgical method.

Lay Abstract

The number of patients surviving severe brain injury is increasing; however, many are left in a prolonged disorder of consciousness. With appropriate treatment, these patients can survive for years. Unless a living will exists; the doctors can authorize withdrawal of artificial hydration and nutrition for these patients, based on best interests. There is an urge to revise the current terminology used in prolonged disorders of consciousness (vegetative state and minimally conscious state) to better reflect our understanding of these conditions, which will, in turn, ease the challenges faced when making a decision about withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration of these patients. A decision-making pathway based on a new taxonomy is proposed. The importance of reassessment is reinforced to clarify diagnosis and help with prognosis. Adopting a new classification for prolonged disorders of consciousness would clarify what we think about these patients.


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