Doctors: Ex-North Korea detainee Otto Warmbier has severe brain injury, no signs of botulism

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Released North Korea detainee Otto Warmbier suffered extensive brain damage and shows no current signs of botulism, doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said Thursday.

The 22-year-old has not spoken or “engaged in any purposeful movements” since arriving in the country Tuesday night, said Dr. Daniel Kanter, professor of neurology and director of the Neurocritical Care Program.

“He shows no signs of understanding language or responding to verbal commands,” the doctor said, adding that Warmbier’s condition is best described as “unresponsive wakefulness.”

The doctors said they could not speculate on what caused his injuries. They said they had no information about the kind of care he received in North Korea.

The earliest images of his brain from North Korea are dated April 2016, Kanter said. An analysis suggests the injury likely occurred in the preceding weeks.

“This pattern of brain injury is usually seen as result of cardiopulmonary arrest where the blood supply to brain is inadequate for a period of time resulting in the death of brain tissue,” he said.

The doctors would not discuss Warmbier’s prognosis.