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13: Neurologic Emergencies. Brain Structure and Function. The Spinal Cord. Common Causes of Brain Disorder (1 of 2). Many different disorders can cause brain dysfunction and can affect LOC, speech, and muscle control. If problem is caused by heart and lungs, entire brain will be affected.

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Common causes of brain disorder 1 of 2
Common Causes of BrainDisorder (1 of 2)

  • Many different disorders can cause brain dysfunction and can affect LOC, speech, and muscle control.

  • If problem is caused by heart and lungs, entire brain will be affected.

  • If problem is in the brain, only that portion of brain will be affected.


Common causes of brain disorder 2 of 2
Common Causes of BrainDisorder (2 of 2)

  • Stroke is a common cause of brain disorder and is treatable.

  • Seizures and altered mental status are other causes of brain disorder.


Cerebrovascular accident and stroke
Cerebrovascular Accidentand Stroke

  • Cerebrovascular accident

    • Interruption of blood flow to the brain that results in the loss of brain function

  • Stroke

    • The loss of brain function that results from a CVA


Potential results of a cva
Potential Results of a CVA

  • Thrombosis—Clotting of cerebral arteries

  • Arterial rupture—Rupture of a cerebral artery

  • Cerebral embolism—Obstruction of a cerebral artery caused by a clot that was formed elsewhere and traveled to the brain


Hemorrhagic stroke
Hemorrhagic Stroke

  • Results from bleeding in the brain

  • High blood pressure is a risk factor.

  • Some people are born with aneurysms.


Ischemic stroke
Ischemic Stroke

  • Results when blood flow to a particular part of the brain is cut off by a blockage inside a blood vessel



Transient ischemic attack tia
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

  • A TIA is a “mini-stroke.”

  • Stroke symptoms go away within 24 hours.

  • Every TIA is an emergency.

  • TIA may be a warning sign of a larger stroke.

  • Patients with possible TIA should be evaluated by a physician.


Signs and symptoms of stroke 1 of 2
Signs and Symptoms of Stroke (1 of 2)

  • Left hemisphere

    • Aphasia: Inability to speak or understand speech

    • Receptive aphasia: Ability to speak, but unable to understand speech

    • Expressive aphasia: Inability to speak correctly, but able to understand speech


Signs and symptoms of stroke 2 of 2
Signs and Symptoms of Stroke (2 of 2)

  • Right hemisphere

    • Dysarthria: Able to understand, but hard to be understood


Stroke mimics
Stroke Mimics

  • Hypoglycemia

  • Postictal state

  • Subdural or epidural bleeding


You are the provider
You are the Provider

  • You and your paramedic partner arrive to a 70-year-old man with a severe headache and decreased level of consciousness.

  • He is seated in the kitchen with his wife standing next to him. 


You are the provider continued
You are the Provider continued

  • When you speak to him, he stares at you blankly.

  • You notice that he is drooling from the right side of his mouth. 

  • His wife says, “A few minutes ago, he told me that he had a very bad headache.” 

  • “When I came back from the bathroom with some ibuprofen, I tried to hand him a glass of water and he dropped the glass on the floor. I don’t know what’s wrong with him.”


You are the provider continued1
You are the Provider continued

  • What do you suspect is wrong with this patient? 

  • What other signs and symptoms would you suspect in this scenario?

  • What tests could you use to verify your suspicions?


Scene size up
Scene Size-up

  • Scene safety remains a priority.

  • Ensure that needed resources are requested.

  • Consider spinal immobilization.

  • Be aware that many serious medical conditions can mimic stroke; consider all possibilities.


Initial assessment
Initial Assessment

  • Chief complaint may include confusion, slurred speech, or unresponsiveness.

  • Patient may have difficulty swallowing or choke on own saliva.

  • Ensure adequate airway.

  • If unresponsive, place in recovery position.

  • Administer oxygen.

  • Raising patient’s arms and legs may aggravate hemorrhage.


You are the provider continued 1 of 2
You are the provider continued (1 of 2)

  • You utilize a portion of the Cincinnati Stroke Scale by asking the patient to smile.

  • He attempts, but the right side of his face remains flaccid. 

  • You assist the patient to the cot and place him upright, slightly on his affected side. 

  • As you obtain a quick set of baseline vital signs, your partner applies high-flow oxygen. 


You are the provider continued 2 of 2
You are the provider continued (2 of 2)

  • What other types of disorders or conditions can mimic a stroke?

  • Can all strokes be treated with clot-busting medications? 


Transport decision
Transport Decision

  • Thrombolytics may reverse stroke symptoms or stop a stroke if given within 2 to 3 hours of onset.

  • Spend as little time on scene as possible.

  • Place paralyzed side down and well protected with padding.

  • Elevate head approximately 6".


Focused history and physical exam
Focused History and Physical Exam

  • Quickly determine when patient last appeared normal.

  • Medications may give you a clue to the patient’s past medical history.

  • Patient may still be able to hear and understand; be careful what you say.


Cincinnati stroke scale
Cincinnati Stroke Scale

  • Speech

    • Abnormal if words are slurred or confused

  • Facial droop

    • Abnormal if asymmetrical

  • Arm drift

    • Abnormal if arms do not move equally


Baseline vital signs
Baseline Vital Signs

  • Excessive bleeding in the brain may slow pulse and cause erratic respirations.

  • Blood pressure is usually high.

  • Excessive bleeding in the brain may cause changes in pupil size and reactivity.


Interventions
Interventions

  • Based on assessment findings

  • If the patient is unresponsive, you may consider the recovery position to protect the airway.


Detailed physical exam
Detailed Physical Exam

  • Perform when time and conditions permit.

  • Generally performed en route to the hospital.

  • Do not delay transport, especially due to the time sensitivity of stroke treatment. 


Ongoing assessment
Ongoing Assessment

  • Reassess ABCs, interventions, vital signs.

  • Stroke patients can lose airway without warning.

  • Watch for changes in GCS scores.

  • Relay information to the hospital as soon as possible.

  • Report any pertinent physical findings, Cincinnati Stroke Scale, GCS score, any other changes.


You are the provider continued 1 of 21
You are the provider continued (1 of 2)

  • Your partner tells you that he will initiate an IV en route. You assist the patient’s wife into the ambulance and immediately begin transport using lights and siren. 

  • You do your best to address their concerns about the noise and driving safely. You hear the paramedic performing the rest of the stroke scale. 

  • What would this include?


You are the provider continued 2 of 21
You are the provider continued (2 of 2)

  • Your partner asks the patient to hold his hands out in front of him palms up and eyes closed. 

  • He then asks the patient to repeat a simple declarative statement.

  • The findings indicate the presence of stroke. 

  • He assigns this patient a GCS score and obtains another set of vital signs. 

  • What would the paramedic have seen if the remaining tests indicated a stroke?


Emergency care for stroke
Emergency Care for Stroke

  • Patient needs to be evaluated by computed tomography (CT).

  • Recognizing the signs and symptoms of stroke can shorten the delay to CT.

  • Treatment needs to start as soon as possible, within 3 to 6 hours of onset.


Seizures
Seizures

  • Generalized (grand mal) seizure

    • Unconsciousness and generalized severe twitching of the body’s muscles that lasts several minutes

  • Absence (petit mal) seizure

    • Seizure characterized by a brief lapse of attention


Signs and symptoms of seizures
Signs and Symptoms of Seizures

  • Seizures may occur on one side or gradually progress to a generalized seizure.

  • Usually last 3 to 5 minutes and are followed by postictal state

  • Patient may experience an aura.

  • Seizures recurring every few minutes are known as status epilepticus.


Causes of seizures

Congenital (epilepsy)

High fevers

Structural problems in the brain

Metabolic disorders

Chemical disorders (poison, drugs)

Sudden high fever

Causes of Seizures


Recognizing seizures
Recognizing Seizures

  • Cyanosis

  • Abnormal breathing

  • Possible head injury

  • Loss of bowel and bladder control

  • Severe muscle twitching

  • Postseizure state of unresponsiveness with deep and labored respirations


Postictal state
Postictal State

  • Patient may have labored breathing.

  • May have hemiparesis: weakness on one side of the body.

  • Patient may be lethargic, confused, or combative.

  • Consider underlying conditions:

    • Hypoglycemia

    • Infection


Scene size up1
Scene Size-up

  • Spinal immobilization may be needed with a seizure.

  • Ensure that scene is safe and wear BSI.

  • Request ALS assistance earlier rather than later.


Initial assessment1
Initial Assessment

  • Most seizures last only a few minutes at most.

  • Assess level of consciousness.

  • Use AVPU scale to determine how well patient is progressing through postictal stage.

  • Focus on ABCs upon arrival.

  • Expect pulse to be rapid and deep.

  • Pulse should slow to normal rates after several minutes.


Transport decision1
Transport Decision

  • It is difficult to package a seizing patient for transport.

  • Treat ABCs while waiting for seizure to finish.

  • Protect the seizing patient from his or her surroundings.

  • Never restrain an actively seizing patient.

  • Not every patient who has a seizure wishes to be transported.

  • Encourage every patient to be seen and evaluated in the emergency department.


Focused history and physical exam1
Focused History and Physical Exam

  • Obtain some information from family or bystanders.

  • Observe patient for recurrent seizures.

  • If the patient displays an altered mental status, perform a rapid physical exam.

  • If patient is responsive, begin with SAMPLE history.

  • If the patient has an altered mental status, utilize the Glasgow Coma Scale.


Interventions1
Interventions

  • Most seizures will be over by the time you arrive.

  • Treat trauma as you would for any other patient.

  • For patients who continue to seize, suction the airway according to local protocol, provide positive pressure ventilation, transport quickly to hospital.

  • Consider rendezvous with ALS, who have medications to stop prolonged seizures.


Detailed physical exam1
Detailed Physical Exam

  • If life threats are treated, consider performing detailed physical exam.

  • Check patient for injuries, including tongue.

  • Assess for weakness or loss of sensation on one side of body.


Ongoing assessment1
Ongoing Assessment

  • Note additional seizure activity.

  • Reassess ABCs, interventions, vital signs.

  • Provide complete history to receiving facility.

  • Include descriptions of seizure from witnesses if available.

  • Document whether this is first seizure or whether patient has history of seizures.


Emergency medical care for seizure
Emergency Medical Carefor Seizure

  • Most patients should be evaluated by a physician after a seizure.

  • With severe injury, suspect spinal injury.

  • Attempt to lower body temperature if febrile seizure.

  • Patient and family may be frightened.


Altered mental status

Hypoglycemia

Hypoxemia

Intoxication

Drug overdose

Unrecognized head injury

Brain infection

Body temperature abnormalities

Brain tumors

Glandular abnormalities

Poisoning

Altered Mental Status


Assessing a patient with ams
Assessing a Patient With AMS

  • Same assessment process

  • Patient cannot tell you reliably what is wrong.

  • Be vigilant in ongoing assessment.

  • Monitor for changes or deterioration.

  • Provide prompt transport to hospital while monitoring the patient.


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