Dengue: Brain-damaged man slips into coma for 30 days, survives

Millions of cases of dengue infection occur worldwide each year. Dengue fever can be one of the most heard-off yet dangerous illnesses these days. A 37-year-old man from Bangalore, recently got a second life after he was successfully treated for brain damage and coma due to dengue

The patient, Mr Deva celebrating his recovery with the team of doctors and staffs

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease that occurs in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Mild dengue fever causes a high fever, rash, and muscle and joint pain. A severe form of dengue fever, also called dengue hemorrhagic fever, can cause severe bleeding, a sudden drop in blood pressure (shock) and death.

Dengue outbreaks in the country have been a cause of concern since the past decade. As per Ministry of Health and Family welfare, about 1, 00, 794 people were diagnosed with dengue. Among which, this year, 172 died across the country. A study about the prevalence of dengue, estimates that 3.9 billion people, in 128 countries, are at risk of infection with dengue viruses.

Severe dengue is a leading cause of serious illness and death among children in some Asian and Latin American countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that, there is no specific treatment for dengue/ severe dengue, but early detection and access to proper medical care lowers fatality rates below 1 per cent.

The difficult part about the fever is that the fever affects almost every part of the body. One such challenging case of dengue was treated by the experts at the Fortis Hospitals, Bangalore. Deva, a railway employee, was suffering from dengue fever for more than a one week. When his consciousness deteriorated further, then he was finally admitted into the emergency room at the hospital.

After repeated fits or seizures, the patient slipped into coma. He was immediately put on the ventilator support and all required instructions were carried out, which included blood investigations, brain scan and spine fluid test. Investigations revealed that this patient had dengue infection. However, the MRI brain scan done showed severe brain injury in crucial parts of the brain.

The usual treatment for patients with dengue which includes fever, hydration and supportive care was not of much help. With no recognised option left, doctors considered medication which can modulate the altered immune system which has been considered rarely in some patients in the past with a small chance of good outcome. With such brain lesions, the chance of recovery is usually considered as very poor. With the collective team work from the doctors at Cunningham road, this patient survived.

Dr Nithin Kumar N, Consultant Neurologist at Fortis Hospitals, Cunningham road, said, “The case was complex and one of its kind as the patient’s brain lesions were unusual. However, we did not lose hope and continued the medications, even after being in coma for 30 days, with treatment of his immune system he improved and was removed from the ventilator. After few weeks’ time, he was removed from all forms of life support system. He became completely conscious by the mid of 5th week and started speaking coherently.”

“We wanted to give it our best shot. This guy was pretty young and healthy and hence, we wanted to attempt this new technique on him. It was nothing short of a miracle,” added Dr Kumar.

Deva’s wife said, “I’m so glad my husband has recovered. We were very scared when he started talking slurpy and frequently felt drowsy. His condition is completely revised now and he’s able to move well with the physiotherapy care.”