Do People In Comas Poop? The Medical Perspective

Yes, people in comas can have bowel movements. Even in a coma, the digestive system keeps working, and the body continues to produce stool. 

Muscles in the colon keep contracting, moving stool toward the rectum until it’s expelled from the body. However, some people in comas may experience constipation because limited mobility can slow down stool movement. 

In such cases, medical professionals may use medication or enemas to help with stool passage. Throughout a coma, caregivers ensure patients’ cleanliness and comfort, handling this aspect of care. 

So, bowel movements remain a natural bodily function, persisting even when someone is unconscious.

What A Coma Is?

What A Coma Is

A coma is a profound state of unconsciousness in which an individual is unable to respond to their environment. Coma is often characterized by a complete lack of awareness, including a lack of response to stimuli like pain, sound, or light. This state is the result of severe damage or dysfunction in the brain.

What Are The Causes Of Coma? 

  • Traumatic Brain Injury: Severe head injuries, such as those from accidents or falls, can lead to a coma.
  • Stroke: A stroke that disrupts blood flow to the brain can result in a coma.
  • Infections: Severe infections, particularly those affecting the brain (e.g., encephalitis or meningitis), can lead to coma.
  • Metabolic Disorders: Conditions like diabetic ketoacidosis, liver failure, or kidney failure can result in a coma.
  • Toxic Exposure: Ingesting toxic substances, such as drugs or chemicals, may lead to coma.
  • Hypoxia: Severe oxygen deprivation to the brain, often due to suffocation or drowning, can cause a coma.
  • Seizures: Status epilepticus, a prolonged and severe seizure, can lead to coma.
  • Tumors: Brain tumors or other growths can result in a coma by causing pressure on the brain.

What Are the Different Levels of Coma and Their Implications for Patients?

Comas can vary in depth or severity, and medical professionals use various scales to classify and assess the different levels of coma. Two commonly used scales for this purpose are the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) and the Rancho Los Amigos Levels of Cognitive Functioning Scale.

Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS)

The Glasgow Coma Scale is a widely used tool to assess the level of consciousness and neurological function in comatose patients. It assigns a numerical score based on a patient’s responses in three categories

  • Eye Opening (1 to 4 points): It assesses whether the patient’s eyes open spontaneously (4 points), in response to verbal stimuli (3 points), in response to pain (2 points), or remain closed (1 point).
  • Verbal Response (1 to 5 points): It evaluates the patient’s ability to communicate. Responses range from oriented and conversing (5 points) to no verbal response (1 point).
  • Motor Response (1 to 6 points): It examines motor responses, with scores ranging from obeying commands (6 points) to no motor response (1 point).

The GCS score can vary from a minimum of 3 (deep coma) to a maximum of 15 (fully conscious and alert). Higher scores indicate a lesser degree of coma.

Rancho Los Amigos Levels of Cognitive Functioning Scale

The Rancho Los Amigos Scale is another tool used to assess levels of cognitive functioning in patients with acquired brain injuries, including those in comas. It describes different stages of recovery and cognitive function rather than measuring consciousness directly. The levels include:

  • Level I (No Response): The patient is in a deep coma with no observable response to stimuli.
  • Level II (Generalized Response): The patient displays generalized reactions to stimuli but no specific awareness.
  • Level III (Localized Response): Responses become more specific and localized to certain stimuli.
  • Level IV (Confused-Agitated): The patient appears confused and agitated, with disorganized behaviors and little understanding.
  • Level V (Confused-Inappropriate): There is increased awareness, but responses remain inappropriate to the situation.
  • Level VI (Confused-Appropriate): The patient’s responses start to match the situation more closely.
  • Level VII (Automatic-Appropriate): The patient can perform routine tasks but lacks higher-level cognitive abilities.
  • Level VIII (Purposeful-Appropriate): The patient regains goal-oriented behavior and memory.
  • Level IX (Purposeful-Appropriate): The patient shows a greater degree of independence in daily living.

How Medical Professionals Handle Bowel Movements In Comatose Patients

Handling bowel movements in comatose patients is an essential aspect of their care, as maintaining their hygiene and comfort is vital. Medical professionals take a structured and compassionate approach to this aspect of patient care. Here are some key points on how medical professionals handle bowel movements in comatose patients:

Regular Assessment

Patients in a coma are continually assessed to monitor their bodily functions. This includes checking for signs of bowel movements, such as changes in vital signs and abdominal discomfort.

Preventive Measures

To reduce the risk of constipation, healthcare providers may implement preventive measures. This can include adjusting the patient’s diet to include more fiber and fluids and prescribing laxatives or stool softeners if necessary.

Hygiene and Incontinence Care

Medical staff routinely provide personal hygiene care, which includes changing soiled linens, cleaning the patient, and using barrier creams to prevent skin irritation.

Assistance with Positioning

Comatose patients are often repositioned to aid in the natural movement of stool through the colon. Proper positioning can help prevent constipation.

Rectal Tubes

In some cases, rectal tubes may be used to help manage bowel movements. These tubes are inserted into the rectum to facilitate the passage of stool.

Communication with Caregivers

Medical professionals work closely with caregivers and family members to ensure that the patient’s individual needs are met. This collaboration helps maintain patient comfort and hygiene.

Monitoring for Complications

Medical staff continuously monitor patients for complications related to bowel movements, such as impaction or bowel obstruction. Prompt intervention is crucial to address any issues.

Respect for Dignity and Privacy

While providing care, healthcare professionals prioritize the patient’s dignity and privacy. They communicate with the patient respectfully, even if there is no verbal response.

Tailored Care Plans

Comatose patients receive individualized care plans that address their specific medical conditions, nutritional needs, and any gastrointestinal issues.

Family Education

Caregivers and family members are educated about the care and management of bowel movements in comatose patients, ensuring that they can provide support and assistance when needed.

What Is The  Role Of Caregivers In Managing Bowel Function In Coma Patients?

The role of caregivers in managing bowel function in comatose patients is vital, as it contributes to the overall care and comfort of the patient. Caregivers, which may include family members or professional healthcare providers, play a significant role in ensuring that comatose patients maintain regular and healthy bowel movements. 

Hygiene and Personal Care: Caregivers assist in maintaining the patient’s cleanliness and hygiene by regularly changing diapers, cleaning the patient, and ensuring they are comfortable.

Positioning: Proper positioning is essential for comatose patients to facilitate the natural movement of stool through the colon. Caregivers adjust the patient’s position as needed to help prevent constipation.

Monitoring: Caregivers observe and monitor the patient’s vital signs and physical cues that may indicate the need for a bowel movement. Regular assessment is crucial to prevent complications.

Communication: Caregivers often serve as advocates for the patient, communicating with healthcare professionals about the patient’s condition and any concerns related to bowel movements.

Diet and Nutrition: Caregivers assist in implementing dietary recommendations, ensuring that the patient receives the appropriate amount of fiber and fluids to support regular bowel function.

Medication Administration: If prescribed by healthcare professionals, caregivers may administer laxatives or stool softeners to manage constipation or irregular bowel movements.

Emotional Support: Caregivers provide emotional support to comatose patients, as the patient’s emotional well-being can affect bodily functions, including bowel movements.

Education: Caregivers are often educated by medical professionals on how to address the patient’s specific bowel movement needs, ensuring they have the necessary skills and knowledge to provide appropriate care.

Skin Care: Preventing skin breakdown and pressure sores is essential. Caregivers ensure that the patient’s skin remains clean and moisturized to prevent complications related to prolonged immobility.

Respecting Dignity: Caregivers maintain the patient’s dignity by providing care with sensitivity and discretion, recognizing that even in a coma, the patient’s comfort and dignity are important.

Safety: Caregivers ensure the patient’s safety during any movements or transfers related to bowel care, minimizing the risk of injury.

Collaboration: Effective communication and collaboration between caregivers and healthcare professionals are crucial. Caregivers work closely with medical staff to address any medical concerns related to bowel movements.

Why Constipation Can Be A Concern For Comatose Patients

Why Constipation Can Be A Concern For Comatose Patients

Constipation can be a significant concern for comatose patients due to various factors that make them particularly vulnerable to this condition. 


Comatose patients are typically immobile and spend extended periods in bed. Immobility can lead to reduced muscle activity in the intestines, hindering the natural movement of stool through the colon.

Altered Diet

Comatose patients often require modifications to their diet. They may receive tube feeding or intravenous nutrition, which can lack the bulk and fiber necessary for regular bowel movements.


Patients in a coma may be at an increased risk of dehydration due to reduced fluid intake or underlying medical conditions. Dehydration can result in hard, dry stool that is difficult to pass.


Comatose patients frequently receive medications, such as pain relievers and sedatives, which can have side effects that slow down the digestive system and lead to constipation.

Neurological Factors

Brain injuries or dysfunction associated with the coma can disrupt the neural signals that control the digestive process, making constipation more likely.

Invasive Procedures

Medical interventions, such as the use of rectal tubes or enemas, may be necessary to manage bowel movements. These procedures can have implications for bowel regularity.

Communication Challenges

Comatose patients cannot communicate when they are experiencing discomfort or the urge to have a bowel movement, making it essential for caregivers to monitor and anticipate their needs.

Risk of Complications

Prolonged constipation can lead to complications such as impaction, which is the accumulation of hard stool that can obstruct the colon, causing severe discomfort and even bowel injury.

Discomfort and Pain

Constipation can cause significant discomfort and pain in comatose patients. It can contribute to agitation and distress, affecting the patient’s overall well-being.

Skin Issues

The pressure from retained stool can result in skin breakdown, increasing the risk of pressure sores and infections, which are of particular concern in immobile patients.


Does a person in coma excrete?

Yes, individuals in a coma can excrete waste products, including urine and feces. However, they require assistance and care from caregivers or medical professionals to manage these bodily functions.

Do your bowels move in a coma?

Yes, bowel movements can occur in comatose individuals, but they often require assistance, dietary modifications, and medical interventions to maintain regular bowel function.

Do people in coma eat?

No, individuals in a coma do not eat in the traditional sense. They are typically fed through alternative methods, such as feeding tubes, to ensure proper nutrition and hydration.

Do people in comas get showered?

Comatose patients receive regular hygiene care, including bathing, to maintain their cleanliness and comfort. However, this process may differ from traditional showers.

Do you still pee and poop when you’re in a coma?

Yes, comatose individuals can still urinate and have bowel movements, but they rely on external assistance and medical care for these bodily functions.

Do people in comas cry?

Comatose patients do not cry in response to emotional stimuli, as they lack conscious awareness. However, they may exhibit reflexive tears due to physical factors, such as eye irritation.

Do you dream in a coma?

The experience of dreaming is generally associated with consciousness, so it is unlikely that comatose individuals have dreams in the conventional sense. Their level of awareness is significantly reduced.

What is the longest coma?

The duration of a coma can vary significantly, with some individuals remaining in a coma for several years. The longest recorded coma is more than 37 years, although such cases are extremely rare.

What was the shortest coma?

Comas can be very brief, lasting only a few minutes or hours. The duration of the shortest coma varies based on the specific cause and circumstances.

What is brain dead vs. coma?

Brain death and coma are distinct medical conditions. Brain death is the irreversible loss of all brain function, including the brainstem, and is considered legal death. In contrast, a coma is a state of prolonged unconsciousness where some brain function remains, and it can be reversible or result in varying levels of consciousness.

Final words

On the whole, comatose individuals do experience bowel movements, but their unique condition calls for special care. Caregivers and medical professionals play a crucial role in ensuring these patients’ comfort, hygiene, and overall well-being. It’s a compassionate effort that involves addressing challenges like constipation and using various methods to facilitate regular bowel movements. Even when patients cannot communicate their needs, their dignity and health are a priority.

However, the importance of managing bowel function in comatose patients is key to providing the best care possible. It’s a part of the comprehensive care that respects their humanity and ensures they receive the support they need during a challenging time.

By acknowledging and addressing this often overlooked aspect of care, we can contribute to the patient’s overall health and comfort.