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Nervous System. Temple College EMS Professions. Nervous System Components. Central Nervous System Brain Spinal Cord Peripheral Nervous System Motor nerves Sensory nerves. Brain. Body’s controlling organ Responsible for organizing functions of other body organ systems. Brain.

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Nervous System

Temple College

EMS Professions

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Nervous System Components

  • Central Nervous System

    • Brain

    • Spinal Cord

  • Peripheral Nervous System

    • Motor nerves

    • Sensory nerves

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  • Body’s controlling organ

  • Responsible for organizing functions of other body organ systems

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  • Functions localized to specific areas

    • Cerebrum

    • Cerebellum

    • Brainstem

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Frontal lobe

Foresight, planning, judgment


Parietal lobe

Sensation from body surface

Temporal lobe



Occipital lobe



Center for conscious perception and response

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Left side of cerebrum

Right side of cerebrum

Sensory, motor functions of body’s right side

Sensory, motor functions of body’s left side

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  • Posture

  • Balance

  • Equilibrium

  • Fine motor skills

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Brain Stem

  • Automatic functions below level of consciousness

    • Heart rate

    • Respirations

    • Blood pressure

    • Body temperature

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Spinal Cord

  • Connects brain with body

  • Serves as center for reflex action

  • Surrounded, protected by spinal column

  • Damage cuts brain off from body structures distal to injury site

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Peripheral Nerves


Spinal Cord

Motor Nerves

Sensory Nerves

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Nervous System

Autonomic Nervous System

Voluntary Nervous System

Unconscious (Visceral) Functions

Conscious Functions

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Brain/Spinal Cord

  • Enclosed in protective box

    • Skin

    • Muscle

    • Bone

    • Meninges

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  • Three layers of tissue enclosing brain, spinal cord

    • Dura mater

    • Arachnoid

    • Pia mater

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Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF)

  • Surrounds brain, spinal cord in space between arachnoid and pia mater (subarachnoid space)

  • Acts as a shock absorber

  • Protects brain from jolts, shocks

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Injuries to Scalp and Skull

  • Scalp Lacerations

  • Skull Fracture

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Scalp Lacerations

  • VERY vascular area

  • Can distract EMT from possible underlying injuries

  • Care for laceration, but ask, “WHAT HAPPENED TO BRAIN ANDNECK?”

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Scalp Lacerations

  • Bleeding usually NOT severe enough to produce hypovolemic shock

  • If shock present, think about other injuries

  • Exceptions

    • Laceration that involves a large artery

    • Scalp injuries in children. Why?

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Skull Fractures

  • Injury to rigid box around brain

  • Indicates significant force

  • What happened to brain and neck?

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Most common

Crack in skull

Detected only on x-ray


Multiple cracks radiate from impact point

Types of Skull Fracture

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Bone fragments pressed inward

Places pressure on brain

Brain tissue may be exposed through injury


Fractures in floor of skull

Diagnosis made clinically

Signs and symptoms

Periorbial ecchymosis (Raccoon eyes)

Battle’s sign

CSF drainage from nose, ears

Types of Skull Fracture

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Skull Fractures



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  • Temporary disturbance in brain function

  • Probably due to brain being “rattled” inside the skull by a blow to the head

  • Usually confused or unconscious

  • Retrograde amnesia--“What happened?”

  • Effects clear without residual effects

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Cerebral Contusion

  • Bruising, swelling

  • Results from brain hitting skull’s inside

  • Coup-contracoup pattern

  • Since brain is in closed box, pressure increases as brain swells, blood flow to brain decreases

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Cerebral Contusion

  • Signs and Symptoms

    • Personality changes

    • Loss of consciousness

    • Paralysis (one-sided or total)

    • Unequal pupils

    • Vomiting

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Epidural Hematoma

  • Usually associated with skull fracture in temporal area

  • Fracture damages artery on skull’s inside

  • Blood collects in epidural space between skull and dura mater

  • Since skull is closed box, intracranial pressure rises

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Epidural Hematoma

  • Signs and Symptoms

    • Loss of consciousness followed by return of consciousness (lucid interval)

    • Headache

    • Deterioration of consciousness

    • Dilated pupil on side of injury

    • Weakness, paralysis on side of body opposite injury

    • Seizures

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Subdural Hematoma

  • Usually results from tearing of large veins between dura mater and arachnoid

  • Blood accumulates more slowly than in epidural hematoma

  • Signs and symptoms may not develop for days to weeks

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Subdural Hematoma

  • Signs and Symptoms

    • Deterioration of consciousness

    • Dilated pupil on side of injury

    • Weakness, paralysis on side of body opposite injury

    • Seizures

Because of slow or delayed onset, may be mistaken for stroke

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Cerebral Laceration

  • Tearing of brain tissue

  • Can result from penetrating or blunt injury

  • Can cause:

    • Massive destruction of brain tissue

    • Bleeding into cranial cavity with increased intracranial pressure

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Assessment of Head Injury

  • Early detection of increasedintracranialpressure is critical

  • If pressure inside skull exceeds average blood pressure, blood flow to brain stops

  • Increasing intracranial pressure can force brain downward into spinal canal, crushing it

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Assessment of Head Injury

  • Level of consciousness is BEST indicator of patient’s condition

    • AVPU system

    • Glasgow scale

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AVPU System

  • Alert

  • Responds to Verbal Stimulus

  • Responds to Painful Stimulus

  • Unresponsive

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Eye Opening

Spontaneous = 4

To Voice = 3

To Pain = 2

None = 1

Glasgow Scale

  • Verbal Response

    • Oriented = 5

    • Confused = 4

    • Inappropriate Words = 3

    • Incomprehensible Sounds = 1

    • None = 1

  • Motor Response

    • Follows Commands = 6

    • Localizes Pain = 5

    • Withdraws = 4

    • Flexion = 3

    • Extension = 2

    • None = 1

Score each response then total scores

Maximum Score = 15

Minimum Score = 3

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Assessment of Head Injury

  • Vital Signs

    • Body responds to increasing intracranial pressure by raising BP

    • Increased BP moves blood into brain against rising ICP

    • Heart rate falls in response to rising BP

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Increased BP

Altered Breathing

Slow Pulse

Cushing’s Triad

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Vital Signs

Isolated head injury does not cause hypotension or tachycardia!

Signs of shock in head injured patient indicate other injuries are present!

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  • Diffuse cerebral edema

    • Dilated

    • Equal

    • Sluggish or absent response

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  • Focal lesion (contusion, hematoma)

    • Unequal

    • Dilated pupil sluggish or fixed

Dilated pupil is on SAME side as injury

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Assessment of Head Injury

  • Other Indicators of Increased ICP

    • Headache

    • Nausea

    • Vomiting (often projectile)

    • Seizures

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Management of Head Injury

  • ABCs with C-spine control

  • C-collar, long board, CID

Any patient with significant head injury has neck injury until proven otherwise

  • Ensure adequate oxygenation

  • If signs of increased ICP present, controlled hyperventilation with BVM at 20-24 breaths/minute

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Management of Head Injury

  • Controlled hyperventilation

    • Lowers blood carbon dioxide levels

    • Causes constriction of blood vessels in brain

    • As vessels constrict brain shrinks

    • As brain shrinks intracranial pressure drops

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Management of Head Injury

  • Do NOT apply pressure to open or depressed skull fractures

  • Do NOT attempt to stop flow of blood or CSF from nose, ears

  • Do NOT remove penetrating objects

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  • Spinal injury can lead to spinal cord injury

  • Spinal cord injury can lead to:

    • Paraplegia

    • Quadraplegia

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Lateral bending



Common Mechanisms

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Suspect spinal injury with...

  • Sudden decelerations (MVCs, falls)

  • Compression injuries (diving, falls onto feet/buttocks)

  • Significant blunt trauma above clavicles

  • Very violent mechanisms (explosions, cave-ins, lightning strike)

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Other indications

  • Decreased LOC in trauma patient

  • Pain in spine or paraspinal area

  • Pain in back of head, shoulders, arms, legs

  • Absent, altered sensation (numbness, paresthesias, loss of temperature, position, touch sense)

  • Absent, altered motor function (weakness, paralysis)

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Other indications

  • Diaphragmatic breathing (paralysis of chest wall)

  • Shock with slow heart rate and dry skin

  • Incontinence

  • Priapism

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Or, there may be no signs at all. . .

  • Neurologic deficits are a result of cord injury

  • Spinal injury without cord involvement may produce no significant signs and symptoms

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  • ABCs with C-spine control

  • Ensure adequate oxygenation, ventilation

  • Keep ENTIRE spine immobilized

  • Repeatedly assess, document neurologic status:

    • Position sense

    • Pain

    • Motion

  • Repeatedly monitor respirations, blood pressure

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Spinal Trauma Complications

  • Respiratory Failure

    • Chest wall innervated from thoracic spine

    • Diaphragm innervated from C3,4,5 via phrenic nerve

    • Cord injury can produce paralysis of respiratory muscles, lead to ventilatory failure

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Spinal Trauma Complications

  • Neurogenic Shock

    • Damage to cord produces peripheral vasodilation

    • Peripheral resistance to blood flow decreases, BP falls

    • Heart rate remains normal or slows

    • Skin below level of injury is flushed, dry

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Spinal Trauma Complications

  • Hypothermia

    • Damage to cord produces peripheral vasodilation

    • Peripheral vasodilation causes increased heat loss through skin

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Spinal Trauma Complications

  • How would you manage:

    • Ventilatory failure caused by spinal injury?

    • Hypoperfusion caused by spinal injury?

    • Hypothermia caused by spinal injury?