Covenant physician explains brain death - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

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.

  • Local News on KCBD.comNewsMore>>

  • First Alert Weather: A few stray storms late today, more severe Tuesday

    First Alert Weather: A few stray storms late today, more severe Tuesday

    Monday, May 21 2018 9:15 AM EDT2018-05-21 13:15:54 GMT

    Storm chances, and therefore rain and severe chances, will be rather slim today. After the morning overcast, skies will become partly cloudy and the afternoon just slightly breezy and warm. 

    Storm chances, and therefore rain and severe chances, will be rather slim today. After the morning overcast, skies will become partly cloudy and the afternoon just slightly breezy and warm. 

  • Trump to DOJ: Investigate whether FBI infiltrated campaign

    Trump to DOJ: Investigate whether FBI infiltrated campaign

    Monday, May 21 2018 12:51 AM EDT2018-05-21 04:51:49 GMT
    Monday, May 21 2018 9:14 AM EDT2018-05-21 13:14:31 GMT
    (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File). FILE - In this Thursday, May 17, 2018, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, in Washington. Trump said he will "demand" that the Justice Department open ...(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File). FILE - In this Thursday, May 17, 2018, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, in Washington. Trump said he will "demand" that the Justice Department open ...

    Trump's demand puts further pressure on the Justice Department, which later Sunday asked its watchdog to expand an existing probe of FBI actions, as the White House combats the threat posed by special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation.

    Trump's demand puts further pressure on the Justice Department, which later Sunday asked its watchdog to expand an existing probe of FBI actions, as the White House combats the threat posed by special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation.

  • School victims honored at Billboard Awards; Janet, BTS shine

    School victims honored at Billboard Awards; Janet, BTS shine

    Sunday, May 20 2018 10:51 AM EDT2018-05-20 14:51:24 GMT
    Monday, May 21 2018 9:13 AM EDT2018-05-21 13:13:25 GMT
    (AP Photos/Invision, File). FILE - In a May 7, 2018, file photo, Ariana Grande, left, attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination exhibitio...(AP Photos/Invision, File). FILE - In a May 7, 2018, file photo, Ariana Grande, left, attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination exhibitio...
    After celebrating her 52nd birthday and the 25th anniversary of her groundbreaking "janet.".
    After celebrating her 52nd birthday and the 25th anniversary of her groundbreaking "janet.".
Powered by Frankly