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J Neurosci Nurs. 2004 Feb;36(1):4-9.

Riding out the storm: sympathetic storming after traumatic brain injury.

Author information

  • Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI, USA. dmlemke@mcw.edu

Abstract

Following acute multiple trauma, hypothalamic stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and adrenal glands causes an increase in circulating corticoids and catecholamines, or a stress response. In individuals with severe traumatic brain injury or a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 3-8, this response can be exaggerated and episodic. A term commonly used by nurses caring for these individuals to describe this phenomenon is storming. Symptoms can include alterations in level of consciousness, increased posturing, dystonia, hypertension, hyperthermia, tachycardia, tachypnea, diaphoresis, and agitation. These individuals generally are at a low level of neurological activity with minimal alertness, minimal awareness, and reflexive motor response to stimulation, and the storming can take a seemingly peaceful individual into a state of chaos. Diagnosis is commonly made solely on clinical assessment, and treatment is aimed at controlling the duration and severity of the symptoms and preventing additional brain injury. Storming can pose a challenge for the nurse, from providing daily care for the individual in the height of the storming episode and treating the symptoms, to educating the family. Careful assessment of the individual leads the nurse to the diagnosis and places the nurse in the role of moderator of the storming episode, including providing treatment and evaluating outcomes.

PMID:
14998101
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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