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Intensive care management after neurosurgery 

Intensive care management after neurosurgery
Intensive care management after neurosurgery

Kamalakkannan Subhas

and Martin Smith

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date: 17 May 2022

The post-operative management of neurosurgical patients is directed towards the prevention, prompt detection, and management of surgical complications, and other factors that put the brain or spinal cord at risk. Close monitoring is required in the first 6–12 post-operative hours as deterioration in clinical status is usually the first sign of a potentially fatal complication. The majority of patients do not require complex monitoring or management beyond the first 12 hours after elective surgery, although prolonged intensive care unit management may be required for those who develop complications, or after acute brain injury. Cardiovascular and respiratory disturbances adversely affect the injured or ‘at risk’ brain, and meticulous blood pressure control and prevention of hypoxia are key aspects of management. Hypertension is particularly common after intracranial neurosurgery and may cause complications, such as intracranial bleeding and cerebral oedema, or be a consequence of them. A moderate target for glycaemic control (7.0–10 mmol/L) is recommended, avoiding hypoglycaemia and large swings in blood glucose concentration. Pain, nausea, and vomiting occur frequently after neurosurgery, and a multimodal approach to pain management and anti-emesis is recommended. Adequate analgesia not only ensures patient comfort, but also avoids pain-related hypertension. Disturbances of sodium and water homeostasis can lead to serious complications, and a structured approach to diagnosis and management minimizes adverse outcomes. Post-operative seizures must be brought rapidly under control because of the risks of secondary cerebral damage and/or progression to status epilepticus.

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