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Brain Injury: Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, Etiology and Levels

presented by Anne Leclaire

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Disclosure Statement:

Financial: Anne Leclaire receives compensation from MedBridge for this course. There is no financial interest beyond the production of this course.


 Non-Financial: Anne Leclaire has no competing non-financial interests or relationships with regard to the content presented in this course.

Satisfactory completion requirements: All disciplines must complete learning assessments to be awarded credit, no minimum score required unless otherwise specified within the course.

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Brain injuries affect millions of people each year. The effects of these catastrophic injuries vary based on the specific location and severity of damage within the brain. Rehabilitation nurses play an integral role in improving patient outcomes by customizing interventions to address deficits caused by the varied areas of the brain that were damaged. Knowledge of the extent and location of the brain injury will allow the rehabilitation nurse to guide the patient through the rehabilitation process. In this course, participants will learn how brain injuries occur and which mechanisms of injury lead to a diagnosis of brain injury. In addition, the effect of pathophysiology on determining the severity of the brain damage will be reviewed.

Meet Your Instructor

Anne Leclaire, RN, MSN, CRRN

Anne graduated with a Master of Science-Nursing from the University of Phoenix and has worked in the field of rehabilitation nursing for most of her career. She started as a staff nurse in inpatient rehabilitation at Weldon Center for Rehabilitation in Springfield, Massachusetts and then moved to Madison, Wisconsin, at University of Wisconsin Hospitals and…

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Chapters & Learning Objectives

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1. Epidemiology and Causes of Brain Injury

Rehabilitation nurses need to understand the epidemiology of brain injuries to identify what factors place individuals at risk and to comprehend the significance of brain injuries on society. Understanding the causes of brain injuries will assist the nurse in identifying the focus of prevention efforts. The epidemiology and causes of brain injury are reviewed.

2. Mechanisms of Brain Injury

No two brain injuries are exactly alike. Understanding the mechanism which caused the brain injury is an important prognostic element. Rehabilitation nurses need to understand how the brain injured person’s functional and rehabilitation potential is linked to this etiology. In this chapter, the mechanisms that cause brain injuries are explored.

3. Pathophysiology of Brain Injury

When a brain injury occurs, the initial insult garners the most attention, yet the effects of the secondary injury can be just as devastating. It is important for rehabilitation nurses to understand and recognize the differences between primary and secondary effects of brain injuries in order to customize appropriate interventions. This chapter will take a closer look at the pathophysiology of primary, secondary, and tertiary brain injuries.

4. Classification of Brain Injury Severity

One of the variables that determine the functional outcome of a person with a brain injury is the severity of the insult to the brain. The focus of rehabilitation nursing interventions for someone with a mild brain injury will be quite different as compared to someone with severe damage to the brain. The characteristics that define the different levels of severity of brain injury are discussed.

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Brain Injury: Nursing Concerns

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The effects of brain injuries vary depending on the location and severity of damage within the brain. Rehabilitation nurses can improve patient outcomes by customizing interventions to address the deficits in targeted areas of the damaged brain. Each lobe of the brain has specific functions, and rehabilitation nurses can use this knowledge to guide patient care and set expected outcomes. In this course, participants will learn how a brain injury affects different systems within the body and review different assessment tools that can be used to identify the severity of the injury and potential for recovery.

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Nurses use knowledge of brain anatomy and function to guide patient care and negotiate expected outcomes. Brain injuries can cause catastrophic changes to a person’s ability to communicate, swallow, and control their bladder and bowel systems. Each of these areas has a significant effect on a patient’s quality of life and ability to live independently. In this course, participants will learn how a nurse addresses deficits in nutrition, communication, and elimination to develop interventions to improve patient outcomes.

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Patients with brain injuries often exhibit changes in behavior. Some changes may be transient while others may be more profound and permanent. Occasionally these behavior changes, such as agitation, can pose safety concerns for the patient, family, and the nursing staff. Nurses must be able to recognize all changes in behavior and understand the implications for patient care and safety. In this course, participants will learn how to identify and address changes in behavior and propose interventions to promote improved cognitive function. Additionally, the characteristics and management of agitation and other potential challenges to patient safety will be addressed.

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Outcomes for patients with brain injury vary widely, based on the severity of the insult. Many patients with brain injuries struggle with deficits in self-care and mobility, which can have a significant effect on their ability to be independent and potentially limit their quality of life. Nurses often partner with other disciplines within the interprofessional team to address these deficits and foster improved function. In this course, participants will learn how to use this knowledge to develop interventions that address these expected functional deficits in order to improve patient outcomes.

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Brain Injury: Preparing Patient & Family for the Future

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The consequences of a brain injury last far beyond the walls of the acute hospitalization. Brain injury does not just affect the person with the injury but the entire family circle, especially in cases where the damage is profound. The road to recovery can be lengthy and full of challenges for patients and families. Patients with minor brain damage face very different choices and outcomes than those with severe damage. This course will explore some of the psychosocial changes they and their families face as they begin to transition through the continuum of care on the road to recovery.

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