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Brain Death: Assessment, Controversy, and Confounding Factors

Author(s): Richard B. Arbour, RN, MSN, CCRN, CNRN, CCNS

Contact Hours: 1.00

CERP A: 1.00

Expires Dec 01, 2017

Topics: Neurology, PalliativeEOL

Population: Adult

Role: Staff

Fee
Member: Free
NonMember: $10.00

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Activity Summary

When brain injury is refractory to aggressive management and is considered nonsurvivable, with loss of consciousness and brain stem reflexes, a brain death protocol may be initiated to determine death according to neurological criteria. Clinical evaluation typically entails 2 consecutive formal neurological examinations to document total loss of consciousness and absence of brain stem reflexes and then apnea testing to evaluate carbon dioxide unresponsiveness within the brain stem. Confounding factors such as use of therapeutic hypothermia, high-dose metabolic suppression, and movements associated with complex spinal reflexes, fasciculations, or cardiogenic ventilator autotriggering may delay initiation or completion of brain death protocols. Neuro -diagnostic studies such as 4-vessel cerebral angiography can rapidly document absence of blood flow to the brain and decrease intervals between onset of terminal brain stem herniation and formal declaration of death by neurological criteria. Intracranial pathophysiology leading to brain death must be considered along with clinical assessment, patterns of vital signs, and relevant diagnostic studies.

Objectives

  • Describe the pathophysiology of brain injury
  • Identify criteria for determining brain death
  • Discuss nursing care of patients with brain injury

Continuing Education Disclosure Statement

Successful Completion

Learners must attend/view/read the entire activity and complete the associated evaluation to be awarded the contact hours or CERP. No partial credit will be awarded.

Disclosure

This activity has been reviewed by the Nurse Planner. It has been determined that the material presented here shows no bias. Approval of a continuing education activity does not imply endorsement by AACN or ANCC of any commercial products displayed or discussed in conjunction with the activity.

Accreditation

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC's) Commission on Accreditation. ANCC Provider Number 0012 (60 min contact hour). AACN has been approved as a provider of continuing education in nursing by the California State Board of Nursing California Provider number CEP01036 contact hours (50 min contact hour).

AACN programming meets the standards for most states that require mandatory continuing education contact hours for license and/or certification renewal. AACN recommends consulting with your state board of nursing or credentialing organization before submitting CE to fulfill continuing education requirements.