40 years of the Glasgow Coma Scale

Published: 14 July 2014

The world-renowned Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) which is used by medics around the globe to record the conscious state of a person is celebrating its 40th anniversary this July.

The world renowned Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) which is used by medics around the world to record the conscious state of a person is celebrating its 40th anniversary this July.

The simple measurement was originally developed by University of Glasgow Professors Sir Graham Teasdale and Bryan Jennett while working in the Institute for Neurological Sciences at the Southern General Hospital in 1974.

It is a neurological scale that aims to give a reliable, objective way of recording the conscious state of a person. A patient is assessed against the criteria of the scale, and the resulting points give a patient score between 3 being the minimum (indicating deep unconsciousness) and 15 (indicates the person is awake).

GCS was initially used to assess levels of consciousness in patients following head injuries however it is now widely used throughout the world in first aid and acute medical and trauma patients. In hospitals it can also used to monitor chronic patients in intensive care.

Since it was introduced in 1974 it has replaced dozens of other methods and is now used in more than 80 countries and has been translated into 60 languages.

The anniversary was officially marked with a celebration event in July in the National Piping Centre in Glasgow. More than 100 NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde staff, past patients and representatives from the University of Glasgow attended the event to recognise the contribution which the Glasgow Coma Scale has made to the world of medicine.

On the 40th anniversary of the landmark innovation Sir Graham Teasdale, 74, from Kilmacolm continues to work passionately to ensure its use. He said: “The assessment of the 'conscious level ' is a key part of the management of a patient with an acute brain injury.

“But before 1974 there was no accepted standard method. The scales used were ill defined and varied widely from place to place. Communication was poor leading to problems in detecting and communicating changes, to delays in action and to disability and death that could possibly have been avoided.

“I am honoured that the work we did in 1974 is still in use throughout the world and has been making clinicians work easier, more fulfilling and fruitful.”

Regius Professor Anna Dominiczak, Vice-Principal and Head of the College Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, at the University of Glasgow, said: “Professors Graham Teasdale and Bryan Jennett revolutionised healthcare when they invented the Glasgow Coma Scale, giving medics around the world a fast and effective way of assessing consciousness of patients.

“The scale is still used today and people will often hear it referenced as the GCS in medical dramas on television. These scientists really were world changers.”

Chairman of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Andrew Robertson, said: “The Glasgow Coma Scale has made a very real and improved experience for both patients and staff who are treating them. The fact that it is being used throughout the world 40 years on is testament to the exceptional work and research which went into it in 1974.

“Our staff, together with our University partners, are committed to ensuring that Glasgow remains at the forefront for global research into medical advances.”

Media enquiries: stuart.forsyth@glasgow.ac.uk / 0141 330 4831

First published: 14 July 2014

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