[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
Clinical Note
November 1999

Recurrent Psychogenic Coma Following Tracheal Stenosis Repair

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver.

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1999;125(11):1267-1269. doi:10.1001/archotol.125.11.1267

Medication, intracranial hemorrhage, infarction, infection, hypoxia, organ failure, and nutritional deficiency may cause unconsciousness following successful emergence from anesthesia. A 39-year-old woman with a history of tracheal stenosis, depression, and anxiety had complete unconsciousness on 3 separate occasions following surgical repair of her tracheal stenosis. In each case, the patient's endotracheal tube had been removed; she was alert and oriented to person, time, and place; and she was admitted to the hospital for observation. Within a few hours after the tube was removed, the patient became abruptly unconscious for periods of 36, 18, and 30 hours. Each time, the results of cardiac, pulmonary, metabolic, and neurologic examinations and radiological studies were normal. We hypothesize that the patient's apparent comas were the result of an underlying conversion disorder precipitated by unresolved psychological conflict surrounding a long history of abuse in which she was repeatedly smothered by a pillow.