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The nurse witnesses a patient with a seizure disorder as the patient suddenly jerks the arms and legs, falls to the floor, and regains consciousness immediately. It will be most important for the nurse to
assess the patient for a possible head injury.
rational: The patient who has had a myoclonic seizure and fall is at risk for head injury and should be evaluated and treated for this possible complication first. Documentation of the seizure, notification of the seizure, and administration of antiseizure medications also are appropriate actions, but the initial action should be assessment for injury.
When family members ask the nurse about the purpose of the ventriculostomy system being used for intracranial pressure monitoring for a patient, which response by the nurse is best?
"The monitoring system helps show whether blood flow to the brain is adequate."
rational: Short and simple explanations should be given to patients and family members. The other explanations are either too complicated to be easily understood or may increase the family member's anxiety.
A patient with a head injury has admission vital signs of blood pressure 128/68, pulse 110, and respirations 26. Which of these vital signs, if taken 1 hour after admission, will be of most concern to the nurse?
Blood pressure 156/60, pulse 55, respirations 12
rational: Systolic hypertension with widening pulse pressure, bradycardia, and respiratory changes represent Cushing's triad and indicate that the intracranial pressure (ICP) has increased, and brain herniation may be imminent unless immediate action is taken to reduce ICP. The other vital signs may indicate the need for changes in treatment, but they are not indicative of an immediately life-threatening process.
When the nurse applies a painful stimulus to the nail beds of an unconscious patient, the patient responds with internal rotation, adduction, and flexion of the arms. The nurse documents this as _____________
rational: Internal rotation, adduction, and flexion of the arms in an unconscious patient is documented as decorticate posturing. Extension of the arms and legs is decerebrate posturing. Because the flexion is generalized, it does not indicate localization of pain or flexion withdrawal.
Which parameter is best for the nurse to monitor to determine whether the prescribed IV mannitol (Osmitrol) has been effective for an unconscious patient?
rational: Mannitol is an osmotic diuretic and will reduce cerebral edema and intracranial pressure. It may initially reduce hematocrit and increase blood pressure, but these are not the best parameters for evaluation of the effectiveness of the drug. Oxygen saturation will not directly improve as a result of mannitol administration.
A patient with a head injury opens the eyes to verbal stimulation, curses when stimulated, and does not respond to a verbal command to move but attempts to remove a painful stimulus. The nurse records the patient's Glasgow Coma Scale score as _______
rational: The patient has a score of 3 for eye opening, 3 for best verbal response, and 5 for best motor response.
Following a head injury, an unconscious 32-year-old patient is admitted to the emergency department (ED). The patient's spouse and children stay at the patient's side and constantly ask about the treatment being given. What action is best for the nurse to take?
Allow the family to stay with the patient and briefly explain all procedures to them.
rational: The need for information about the diagnosis and care is very high in family members of acutely ill patients, and the nurse should allow the family to observe care and explain the procedures. A pastor or counseling service can offer some support, but research supports information as being more effective. Asking the family to stay in the waiting room will increase their anxiety.
An unconscious patient has a nursing diagnosis of ineffective cerebral tissue perfusion related to cerebral tissue swelling. Which nursing intervention will be included in the plan of care?
Keep the head of the bed elevated to 30 degrees.
rational: The patient with increased intracranial pressure (ICP) should be maintained in the head-up position to help reduce ICP. Flexion of the hips and knees increases abdominal pressure, which increases ICP. Because the stimulation associated with nursing interventions increases ICP, clustering interventions will progressively elevate ICP. Coughing increases intrathoracic pressure and ICP.
After noting that a patient with a head injury has clear nasal drainage, which action should the nurse take?
Check the nasal drainage for glucose.
rational: Clear nasal drainage in a patient with a head injury suggests a dural tear and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leakage. If the drainage is CSF, it will test positive for glucose. Fluid leaking from the nose will have normal nasal flora, so culture and sensitivity will not be useful. Blowing the nose is avoided to prevent CSF leakage.
A patient who has a head injury is diagnosed with a concussion. Which action will the nurse plan to take?
Provide discharge instructions about monitoring neurologic status.
rational: A patient with a minor head trauma is usually discharged with instructions about neurologic monitoring and the need to return if neurologic status deteriorates. MRI, hospital admission, or surgery are not indicated in a patient with a concussion.
A patient who is suspected of having an epidural hematoma is admitted to the emergency department. Which action will the nurse plan to take?
Prepare the patient for immediate craniotomy.
rational: The principal treatment for epidural hematoma is rapid surgery to remove the hematoma and prevent herniation. If intracranial pressure (ICP) is elevated after surgery, furosemide or high-dose barbiturate therapy may be needed, but these will not be of benefit unless the hematoma is removed. Minimal blood loss occurs with head injuries, and transfusion is usually not necessary.
While admitting a patient with a basal skull fracture, the nurse notes clear drainage from the patient's nose. Which of these admission orders should the nurse question?
Insert nasogastric tube.
rational: Rhinorrhea may indicate a dural tear with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leakage, and insertion of a nasogastric tube will increase the risk for infections such as meningitis. Turning the patient, elevating the head, and applying cold pack are appropriate orders.
Which assessment information will the nurse collect to determine whether a patient is developing postconcussion syndrome?
rational: Decreased short-term memory is one indication of postconcussion syndrome. The other data may be assessed but are not indications of postconcussion syndrome.
When admitting a patient who has a tumor of the right frontal lobe, the nurse would expect to find __________
rational: The frontal lobes control intellectual activities such as judgment. Speech is controlled in the parietal lobe. Weakness and hemiplegia occur on the contralateral side from the tumor. Swallowing is controlled by the brainstem.
Which statement by a patient who is being discharged from the emergency department (ED) after a head injury indicates a need for intervention by the nurse?
"I am going to drive home and go to bed."
rational: Following a head injury, the patient should avoid operating heavy machinery. Retrograde amnesia is common after a concussion. The patient can take acetaminophen for headache and should return if symptoms of increased intracranial pressure such as dizziness or nausea occur.
After having a craniectomy and left anterior fossae incision, a patient has a nursing diagnosis of impaired physical mobility related to decreased level of consciousness and weakness. An appropriate nursing intervention is to
perform range-of-motion (ROM) exercises every 4 hours.
rational: ROM exercises will help to prevent the complications of immobility. Patients with anterior craniotomies are positioned with the head elevated. The patient with a craniectomy should not be turned to the operative side. When the patient is weak, clustering nursing activities may lead to more fatigue and weakness.
A patient who has bacterial meningitis is disoriented and anxious. Which nursing action will be included in the plan of care?
Encourage family members to remain at the bedside.
rational: Patients with meningitis and disorientation will be calmed by the presence of someone familiar at the bedside. Restraints should be avoided because they increase agitation and anxiety. The patient requires frequent assessment for complications; the use of touch and a soothing voice will decrease anxiety for most patients. The patient will have photophobia, so the light should be dim.
The community health nurse is developing a program to decrease the incidence of meningitis in adolescents and young adults. Which nursing action is most important?
Immunize adolescents and college freshman against Neisseria meningitides.
rational: The Neisseria meningitides vaccination is recommended for children ages 11 and 12, unvaccinated teens entering high school, and college freshmen. Hand washing may help decrease the spread of bacteria, but it is not as effective as immunization. Vaccination with Haemophilus influenzae is for infants and toddlers. Because adolescents and young adults are in school or the workplace, avoiding crowds is not realistic.
While caring for a patient who has just been admitted with meningococcal meningitis, the RN observes all of the following. Which one requires action by the RN?
The nursing assistant goes into the patient's room without a mask.
rational: Meningococcal meningitis is spread by respiratory secretions, so it is important to maintain respiratory isolation as well as standard precautions. Because the patient may be confused and weak, bedrails should be elevated at both the food and head of the bed. Low light levels in the room decrease pain caused by photophobia. Nutrition is an important aspect of care in a patient with meningitis.
When assessing a patient with bacterial meningitis, the nurse obtains the following data. Which finding should be reported immediately to the health care provider?
The patient's blood pressure is 86/42 mm Hg.
rational: Shock is a serious complication of meningitis, and the patient's low blood pressure indicates the need for interventions such as fluids or vasopressors. Nuchal rigidity and a positive Kernig's sign are expected with bacterial meningitis. The nurse should intervene to lower the temperature, but this is not as life threatening as the hypotension.
A patient has a systemic BP of 108/51 mm Hg and an intracranial pressure (ICP) of 14 mm Hg. Which action should the nurse take first?
Report the BP and ICP to the health care provider.
rational: The patient's cerebral perfusion pressure is 56 mm Hg, below the normal of 60 to 100 mm Hg and approaching the level of ischemia and neuronal death. Immediate changes in the patient's therapy such as fluid infusion or vasopressor administration are needed to improve the cerebral perfusion pressure. Adjustments in the head elevation should only be done after consulting with the health care provider. Continued monitoring and documentation also will be done, but they are not the first actions that the nurse should take.
After suctioning, the nurse notes that the intracranial pressure for a patient with a traumatic head injury has increased from 14 to 16 mm Hg. Which action should the nurse take first?
Assure that the patient's neck is not in a flexed position.
rational: Since suctioning will cause a transient increase in intracranial pressure, the nurse should initially check for other factors that might be contributing to the increase and observe the patient for a few minutes. Documentation is needed, but this is not the first action. There is no need to notify the health care provider about this expected reaction to suctioning. Propofol is used to control patient anxiety or agitation; there is no indication that anxiety has contributed to the increase in intracranial pressure.
Which of these patients is most appropriate for the intensive care unit (ICU) charge nurse to assign to an RN who has floated from the medical unit?
A 44-year-old receiving IV antibiotics for meningococcal meningitis
rational: An RN who works on a medical unit will be familiar with administration of IV antibiotics and with meningitis. The postcraniotomy patient, patient with an ICP monitor, and the patient on a ventilator should be assigned to an RN familiar with the care of critically ill patients.
A patient with possible cerebral edema has a serum sodium level of 115 mEq/L (115 mmol/L) and a decreasing level of consciousness (LOC) and complains of a headache. Which of these prescribed interventions should the nurse implement first?
Administer 5% hypertonic saline intravenously.
rational: The patient's low sodium indicates that hyponatremia may be causing the cerebral edema, and the nurse's first action should be to correct the low sodium level. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) will have minimal effect on the headache because it is caused by cerebral edema and increased intra-cranial pressure (ICP). Drawing ABGs and obtaining a CT scan may add some useful information, but the low sodium level may lead to seizures unless it is addressed quickly.
After the emergency department nurse has received a status report on the following patients who have been admitted with head injuries, which patient should the nurse assess first?
A patient whose right pupil is 10 mm and unresponsive to light
rational: The dilated and nonresponsive pupil may indicate an intracerebral hemorrhage and increased intracranial pressure. The other patients are not at immediate risk for complications such as herniation.
Which assessment finding in a patient who was admitted the previous day with a basilar skull fracture is most important to report to the health care provider?
Temperature of 101.5° F (38.6° C)
rational: Patients who have basilar skull fractures are at risk for meningitis, so the elevated temperature should be reported to the health care provider. The other findings are typical of a patient with a basilar skull fracture.
When a patient's intracranial pressure (ICP) is being monitored with an intraventricular catheter, which information obtained by the nurse is most important to communicate to the health care provider?
Oral temperature 101.6° F
rational: Infection is a serious consideration with ICP monitoring, especially with intraventricular catheters. The temperature indicates the need for antibiotics or removal of the monitor. The ICP, arterial pressure, and apical pulse are all borderline high but require only ongoing monitoring at this time.
The charge nurse observes an inexperienced staff nurse who is caring for a patient who has had a craniotomy for a brain tumor. Which action by the inexperienced nurse requires the charge nurse to intervene?
The staff nurse suctions the patient every 2 hours.
rational: Suctioning increases intracranial pressure and is done only when the patient's respiratory condition indicates it is needed. The other actions by the staff nurse are appropriate.
A patient is brought to the emergency department (ED) by ambulance after being found unconscious on the bathroom floor by the spouse. Which action will the nurse take first?
Obtain oxygen saturation.
rational: Airway patency and breathing are the most vital functions and should be assessed first. The neurologic assessments should be accomplished next and the health and medication history last.
The care plan for a patient who has increased intracranial pressure and a ventriculostomy includes the following nursing actions. Which action can the nurse delegate to nursing assistive personnel (NAP) who regularly work in the intensive care unit?
Check capillary blood glucose level every 6 hours.
rational: Experienced NAP can obtain capillary blood glucose levels when they have been trained and evaluated in the skill. Monitoring and documentation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) color and intracranial pressure (ICP) require RN-level education and scope of practice. Although repositioning patients is frequently delegated to NAP, repositioning a patient with a ventriculostomy is complex and should be done by the RN.
Which information about a patient who is hospitalized after a traumatic brain injury requires the most rapid action by the nurse?
Pressure of oxygen in brain tissue (PbtO2) is 14 mm Hg
rational: The PbtO2 should be 20 to 40 mm Hg. Lower levels indicate brain ischemia. An intracranial pressure (ICP) of 15 mm Hg is at the upper limit of normal. CSF is produced at a rate of 20 to 30 mL/hour. The reason for the sinus tachycardia should be investigated, but the elevated heart rate is not as concerning as the decrease in PbtO2.
When caring for a patient who has had a head injury, which assessment information requires the most rapid action by the nurse?
The patient is more difficult to arouse.
rational: The change in level of consciousness (LOC) is an indicator of increased intracranial pressure (ICP) and suggests that action by the nurse is needed to prevent complications. The change in BP should be monitored but is not an indicator of a need for immediate nursing action. Headache is not unusual in a patient after a head injury. A slightly irregular apical pulse is not unusual.
The nurse obtains these assessment findings for a patient who has a head injury. Which finding should be reported rapidly to the health care provider?
Urine output of 800 mL in the last hour
rational: The high urine output indicates that diabetes insipidus may be developing and interventions to prevent dehydration need to be rapidly implemented. The other data do not indicate a need for any change in therapy.
When admitting a patient with a possible coup-contracoup injury after a car accident to the emergency department, the nurse obtains the following information. Which finding is most important to report to the health care provider?
The patient takes warfarin (Coumadin) daily.
rational: The use of anticoagulants increases the risk for intracranial hemorrhage and should be immediately reported. The other information would not be unusual in a patient with a head injury who had just arrived to the ED.
A patient admitted with bacterial meningitis and a temperature of 102° F (38.8° C) has orders for all of these collaborative interventions. Which action should the nurse take first?
Swap the nasopharyngeal mucosa for cultures.
rational: Antibiotic therapy should be instituted rapidly in bacterial meningitis, but cultures must be done before antibiotics are started. As soon as the cultures are done, the antibiotic should be started. Hypothermia therapy and acetaminophen administration are appropriate but can be started after the other actions are implemented.
An unconscious patient with a traumatic head injury has a blood pressure of 126/72 mm Hg, and an intracranial pressure of 18 mm Hg. The nurse will calculate the cerebral perfusion pressure as ____________________.
72 mm Hg
(The formula for calculation of cerebral perfusion pressure is [(Systolic pressure + Diastolic blood pressure × 2)/3] = intracranial pressure.)
A patient with a neck fracture at the C5 level is admitted to the intensive care unit. During initial assessment of the patient, the nurse recognizes the presence of neurogenic shock on finding ________________
hypotension, bradycardia, and warm extremities.
rational: Neurogenic shock is characterized by hypotension, bradycardia, and vasodilation leading to warm skin temperature. Spasticity and hyperactive reflexes do not occur at this stage of spinal cord injury. Lack of movement and sensation indicate spinal cord injury, but not neurogenic shock.
The nurse is caring for a patient with carotid artery narrowing who has just returned after having left carotid artery angioplasty and stenting. Which assessment information is of most concern to the nurse?
The patient has difficulty talking.
rational: Small emboli can occur during carotid artery angioplasty and stenting, and the aphasia indicates a possible stroke during the procedure. Slightly elevated pulse rate and blood pressure are not unusual because of anxiety associated with the procedure. Fine crackles at the lung bases may indicate atelectasis caused by immobility during the procedure; the nurse should have the patient take some deep breaths.
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