Neuro ICU Nurse Tips for Newbies, Part 2: Disease Processes

by | Feb 27, 2018 | Podcasts, Neuro Nursing, New Nurse | 0 comments

This podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, PlayerFM, iHeartRadio, Libsyn, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

Articles contain affiliate links. For more information on affiliate links, click here

Who You’ll Hear

Kati Kleber, MSN RN– Nurse educator, former cardiac med-surg/stepdown and neurocritical care nurse, author, and speaker.

Melissa Stafford, BSN RN CCRN SCRN – highly experienced and currently practicing nationally certified neurocritical care nurse.

Elizabeth Mills, BSN RN CCRN – highly experienced neurocritical care nurse, current Stroke Navigator for a Primary Stroke Center.

What You’ll Learn:

  • Subdural hematoma
  • Epidural hematoma
  • Seizure
  • Brain Tumors
  • CPM
  • Diffuse axonal injury

This episode discusses a few disease processes that are typically seen by the neuro ICU nurse as well as a neuro floor. We chat about subdural hematomas, epidural hematomas, seizures, brain tumors, and diffuse axonal injury.  And as always, this episode is hosted by three neuro ICU nurses!

Looking to prepare for your first nursing job?

New Nurse Masterclass

The FreshRN® New Nurse Master Class is the first-ever self-guided holistic nurse residency program. This comprehensive program was specifically created for the ambitious newly licensed acute care nurses who want to get ahead of them and build both their confidence and their clinical skills - all while learning how to adjust to the unique lifestyle of a nurse.

Looking for the ultimate resource to prepare for your first neuro nursing job?

Neuro Wise - A crash course for new neuro nurses

Neuro Wise - A Crash Course for New Neuro Nurses from FreshRN® is your one-stop ultimate resource and online course, crafted specifically for brand new neuro nurses. If you want to get ahead of the game so instead of merely surviving orientation, you’re thriving all the way through from day one to day done - this is the course for you.

Click for Instant Access

Start Now

Subdural hematoma

  • SHD is not a stroke
  • Dura = covering of the brain… blood is under the dura but on top of the brain
  • Often a tear in a vein, which results in a slow blood accumulation
  • Happens often with elderly; brain atrophies and creates space
  • Acute – blood is new, the blood isn’t thin. Quite thick… if it’s large enough they’ll go to the OR for an evacuation
  • If it’s older (subacute) 1-2 weeks… but blood thins out and become easier to treat. Some surgeons will do a bedside procedure to remove the clot

Epidural hematoma

  • Above the dural layer of the covering the brain
  • Typically the result in an artery tear, which results in a very fast accumulation of blood in the epidural space
  • Appears quickly, enlarges quickly, and is often a surgical emergency
  • Common place is around the temporal bone near the eye… meningeal artery… may not lose consciousness
  • Liam Neeson’s wife died of this – here is a short article from Advanced Neurological Associates
  • Change in HOB with lots of pressure


  • Patients with neurological injury are at risk for seizures
  • You cannot tell just by looking at a patient that they are having a seizure or not; only the EEG can absolutely confirm that
  • Safety and maintaining an airway is of utmost importance
  • Must get seizures under control
  • Antiepileptic drugs (AED’s)
    • Looks like they’re having a seizure, but when you look at an EEG they are not actually having one
  • Status epilepticus
    • Maybe one long seizure, or multiple seizures with minimal breaks
    • Must stop the brain from seizing! Brain electricity is going bananas – rescue drugs and airway protection (intubation) is frequently necessary because they cannot maintain their airway while seizing that frequently
  • Subclinical seizures
    • Not evident from CT or assessment

Brain tumors

  • Many kinds of tumors
  • Some are cancer, some are not – must get a biopsy, which is incredibly invasive (craniotomy), to definitively say if it is cancerous or not
  • Watch Na+ and for CSF leak (clear fluid out of nose, ear)
  • Typically, an incision is made through the nares
  • Coughing/sneezing precautions
  • Usually benign
  • Diabetes Insipidus is something to watch for
  • Watch urine output closely

Central Pontine Myelinolysis (CPM)

  • Medscape article
  • Overcorrection of serum sodium – cannot correct too fast (more than 8-10 in 24 hours)
  • Must watch closely when administering hypertonic saline
  • Essentially, it’s a stripping of the myelin sheath
  • Irreversible
  • Can be mild, moderate, severe, and fatal
  • This is a big deal!
  • You won’t get an alert from the lab for overcorrection unless it is over their threshold for hypernatremia.
    • For example, if you correct from 125 to 135 in 24 hours, it won’t alert the lab because technically the 135 is normal. However, this is a HUGE change in 24 hours and concerning for demyelination.

Diffuse axonal injury

  • Wikipedia article
  • Seen with trauma patients
  • The force of traumatic shearing causes this
  • Global deficits rather than deficits with a stroke that’s one-sided; most (roughly 90%) never regain consciousness
  • Ranges from mild to severe

More resources

All links on this site may be affiliate links and should be considered as such. FreshRN is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to See our privacy policy for more information.
Picture of Kati Kleber, founder of FRESHRN

Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

Connect with her on YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and sign-up for her free email newsletter for new nurses.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.