12 Stroke (Cerebrovascular Accident) Nursing Care Plans

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Included in this guide are 12 nursing diagnoses for stroke (cerebrovascular accident) nursing care plans. Know about the nursing interventions for stroke, assessment, goals, and related factors of each nursing diagnosis and care plan.

What is Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA) or Stroke? 

Cerebrovascular accident (CVA), also known as stroke, cerebral infarction, brain attack, is any functional or structural abnormality of the brain caused by a pathological condition of the cerebral vessels of the entire cerebrovascular system. It is the sudden impairment of cerebral circulation in one or more blood vessels supplying the brain. This pathology either causes hemorrhage from a tear in the vessel wall or impairs the cerebral circulation by partial or complete occlusion of the vessel lumen with transient or permanent effects. The sooner the circulation returns to normal after a stroke, the better the chances are for a full recovery. However, about half of those who survived a stroke remain disabled permanently and experience the recurrence within weeks, months, or years.

Thrombosis, embolism, and hemorrhage are the primary causes of stroke, with thrombosis being the leading cause of both CVAs and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). The most common vessels involved are the carotid arteries and those of the vertebrobasilar system at the base of the brain.

A thrombotic CVA causes a slow evolution of symptoms, usually over several hours, and is “completed” when the condition stabilizes. An embolic CVA occurs when a clot is carried into cerebral circulation and causes a localized cerebral infarct. Hemorrhagic CVA is caused by other conditions such as a ruptured aneurysm, hypertension, arteriovenous (AV) malformations, or other bleeding disorders.

Nursing Care Plans

The primary nursing care plan goals for patients with stroke depend on the phase of CVA the client is in. During the acute phase of CVA, efforts should focus on survival needs and prevent further complications. Care revolves around efficient continuing neurologic assessment, support of respiration, continuous monitoring of vital signs, careful positioning to avoid aspiration and contractures, management of GI problems, and monitoring of electrolyte and nutritional status. Nursing care should also include measures to prevent complications.

Listed below are 12 nursing diagnoses for stroke (cerebrovascular accident) nursing care plans: 

  1. Risk for Ineffective Cerebral Tissue Perfusion
  2. Impaired Physical Mobility
  3. Impaired Verbal Communication
  4. Acute Pain
  5. Ineffective Coping
  6. Self-Care Deficit
  7. Risk for Impaired Swallowing
  8. Activity Intolerance
  9. Risk for Unilateral Neglect
  10. Deficient Knowledge
  11. Risk for Disuse Syndrome
  12. Risk for Injury
  13. Other Nursing Diagnosis

NOTE: This nursing care plan is recently updated with new content and a change in formatting. Nursing assessment and nursing interventions are listed in bold and followed by their specific rationale in the following line. Still, when writing nursing care plans, follow the format here.

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Risk for Ineffective Cerebral Tissue Perfusion

The goals for this nursing diagnosis include decreasing the risk of ineffective cerebral tissue perfusion.

Nursing Diagnosis

Risk factors may include

Common risk factors for this nursing diagnosis:

  • Clot emboli
  • Hemorrhage of cerebral vessel
  • Occlusive disorder
  • Cerebral vasospasms
  • Cerebral edema

Desired goals and outcomes

Common goals and expected outcomes:

  • Patient will maintain usual/improved level of consciousness, cognition, and motor/sensory function.
  • Patient will demonstrate stable vital signs and absence of signs of increased ICP.
  • Patient will display no further deterioration/recurrence of deficits

Interventions for this diagnosis include ways to decrease the risk of cerebral perfusion related to stroke or transient ischemic attack. Also, note that some treatment modalities are different for ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. As always, please individualize your nursing care plans and choose interventions appropriate to your client.

Nursing Assessment and Rationales

The following is a nursing assessment guide for this cerebrovascular accident (stroke) nursing care plan.

1. Assess airway patency and respiratory pattern.
Neurologic deficits of a stroke may include loss of gag reflex or cough reflex; thus, airway patency and breathing pattern must be part of the initial assessment.

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2. Assess factors related to decreased cerebral perfusion and the potential for increased intracranial pressure (ICP).
The extensive neurologic examination will help guide therapy and the choice of interventions.

3. Recognize the clinical manifestations of a transient ischemic attack (TIA).
Patients with TIA present with temporary neurologic symptoms such as sudden loss of motor, sensory, or visual function caused by transient ischemia to a specific region of the brain, with their brain imaging scan showing no evidence of ischemia. Recognizing symptoms of TIA may serve as a warning of an impending stroke as approximately 15% of all strokes are preceded by a TIA (Amarenco et al., 2018; Sacco, 2004). Evaluation and prompt treatment of the patient who experienced TIA can help prevent stroke and its irreversible complications.

4. Frequently assess and monitor neurological status.
Assess trends in the level of consciousness (LOC), the potential for increased ICP, and helps determine location, extent, and progression of damage. Prognosis depends on the neurologic condition of the patient. It may also reveal the presence of TIA, which may warn of impending thrombotic CVA. Neurologic assessment includes:

  • Change in the level of consciousness or responsiveness
  • Response to stimulation
  • Orientation to time, place, and person
  • Eye opening, pupillary reactions to light and accomodation, size of pupils

Alternatively, you can use the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale to help guide you through assessment.

5. Monitor changes in blood pressure, compare BP readings in both arms.
Hypertension is a significant risk factor for stroke. Fluctuation in blood pressure may occur because of cerebral injury in the vasomotor area of the brain. Hypertension or postural hypotension may have been a precipitating factor. Hypotension may occur because of shock (circulatory collapse), and increased ICP may occur because of tissue edema or clot formation. Subclavian artery blockage may be revealed by the difference in pressure readings between arms. Additionally, if the patient is eligible for fibrinolytic therapy, blood pressure control is essential to decrease the risk of bleeding.

6. Monitor heart rate and rhythm, assess for murmurs.
Changes in rate, especially bradycardia, can occur because of brain damage. Dysrhythmias and murmurs may reflect cardiac disease, precipitating CVA (stroke after MI or valve dysfunction). The presence of atrial fibrillation increases the risk of emboli formation.

7. Monitor respirations, noting patterns and rhythm, Cheyne-Stokes respiration.
Irregular respiration can suggest the location of cerebral insult or increasing ICP and the need for further intervention, including possible respiratory support.

8. Monitor computed tomography scan.
A CT scan is the initial diagnostic test performed for patients with stroke that is executed immediately once the patient presents to the emergency department. CT scan is used to determine if the event is ischemic or hemorrhagic as the type of stroke will guide therapy. A computed tomography angiography (CTA) may also be performed to detect intracranial occlusions and the extent of occlusion in the arterial tree (Menon & Demchuk, 2011).

9. Evaluate pupils, noting size, shape, equality, light reactivity.
Pupil reactions are regulated by the oculomotor (III) cranial nerve and help determine whether the brain stem is intact. Pupil size and equality are determined by the balance between parasympathetic and sympathetic innervation. Response to light reflects the combined function of the optic (II) and oculomotor (III) cranial nerves.

10. Document changes in vision: reports of blurred vision, alterations in the visual field, depth perception.
Visual disturbances may occur if the aneurysm is adjacent to the oculomotor nerve. Specific visual alterations reflect an area of the brain involved. Initiate measures to promote safety.

11. Assess higher functions, including speech, if the patient is alert.
Changes in cognition and speech content indicate location and degree of cerebral involvement and may indicate deterioration or increased ICP.

12. Assess for nuchal rigidity, twitching, increased restlessness, irritability, the onset of seizure activity.
Nuchal rigidity (pain and rigidity of the back of the neck) may indicate meningeal irritation. Seizures may reflect an increase in ICP or cerebral injury requiring further evaluation and intervention.

Nursing Interventions and Rationales

Here are the nursing interventions for this stroke nursing care plan.

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1. Screen the patient for stroke risk.
Prevention of stroke is still the best approach. A healthy lifestyle, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and following a healthy diet can reduce the risk of having a stroke (Gorelick et al., 2015).

2. Position with head slightly elevated and in a neutral position.
Reduces arterial pressure by promoting venous drainage and may improve cerebral perfusion. During the acute phase of stroke, maintain the head of the bed less than 30 degrees.

3. Maintain bedrest, provide a quiet and relaxing environment, restrict visitors and activities. Cluster nursing interventions and provide rest periods between care activities. Limit duration of procedures.
Continuous stimulation or activity can increase intracranial pressure (ICP). Absolute rest and quiet may be needed to prevent rebleeding.

4. Prevent straining at stool, holding breath, physical exertion.
Valsalva maneuver increases ICP and potentiates the risk of rebleeding.

5. Stress smoking cessation.
Cigarette smoking is a well-established risk factor for all forms of stroke. Smoking increases the risk of stroke by three to fourfold (Shah & Cole, 2010). Encouraging the patient to quit, counseling, nicotine replacement, and oral smoking cessation medications (e.g., Zyban) are some approaches to aid in quitting. Nurses are the first line of treatment among hospital staff capable of planning and implementing interventions to quit smoking. Research suggests that smoking cessation counseling by nurses plays a crucial role in quitting smoking (Kazemzadeh, Manzari, & Pouresmail, 2017).

6. Administer supplemental oxygen as indicated.
Reduces hypoxemia. Hypoxemia can cause cerebral vasodilation and increase pressure or edema formation.

7. Administer medications as indicated: 

7.1. Thrombolytics: Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), recombinant tPA (rt-PA) (Alteplase)
Given concurrently with an anticoagulant to treat ischemic stroke. tPA converts plasminogen to plasmin, dissolving the blood clot that is blocking blood flow to the brain. Rapid diagnosis of stroke and immediate treatment of rt-PA (0-90 minutes) from stroke onset increases the odds of improvement at 24 hours and favorable 3-month outcome (Marler et al., 2000). It is given intravenously (or intra-arterial delivery) as soon as ischemic stroke is confirmed. Monitor for signs of bleeding. Thrombolytics are contraindicated in patients with hemorrhagic stroke.

7.2. Anticoagulants: warfarin sodium (Coumadin), low-molecular-weight heparin (Lovenox)
Administered to prevent further extension of the clot and formation of new clots and improve cerebral blood flow. They do not dissolve an existing clot. Anticoagulants are never administered for patients with hemorrhagic stroke.

7.3. Antiplatelet agents: aspirin (ASA), dipyridamole (Persantine), ticlopidine (Ticlid)
Daily low-dose administration of aspirin interferes with platelet aggregation. It can help decrease the incidence of cerebral infarction in patients who have experienced TIAs from a stroke of embolic or thrombotic in origin. These medications are contraindicated in hypertensive patients because of the increased risk of hemorrhage.

7.4. Antifibrinolytics: aminocaproic acid (Amicar)
Used with caution in hemorrhagic disorder to prevent lysis of formed clots and subsequent rebleeding.

7.5. Antihypertensives: ACE-Inhibitors, Diuretics
Used for patients undergoing fibrinolytic therapy, blood pressure control is essential to decrease the risk of bleeding. Blood pressure should be maintained with the systolic pressure less than 180 mmHg and diastolic at 105 mmHg (Cumbler & Glasheen, 2007). Antihypertensive are also used for secondary stroke prevention.

7.6. Peripheral vasodilators: cyclandelate (Cyclospasmol), papaverine (Pavabid), isoxsuprine (Vasodilan).
Transient hypertension often occurs during an acute stroke and usually resolves without therapeutic intervention. It is used to improve collateral circulation or decrease vasospasm.

7.7. Neuroprotective agents: calcium channel blockers, excitatory amino acid inhibitors, gangliosides.
These agents are being researched (Ovbiagele et al., 2003) as a means to protect the brain by interrupting the destructive cascade of biochemical events (influx of calcium into cells, release of excitatory neurotransmitters, buildup of lactic acid) to limit ischemic injury.

7.8. Phenytoin (Dilantin), phenobarbital.
Used if there is an increase in ICP and occurrence of seizures. Phenobarbital enhances the action of antiepileptics.

7.9. Stool softeners.
Prevents straining during bowel movement and the corresponding increase of ICP. Constipation frequently occurs after a stroke (Li et al., 2017).

8. Monitor laboratory studies as indicated: prothrombin time (PT), activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT), and Dilantin level.
Provides information about drug effectiveness and therapeutic level.

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9. Prepare for surgery, as appropriate: endarterectomy, microvascular bypass, cerebral angioplasty.
It may be necessary to resolve the situation, reduce neurological symptoms of recurrent stroke.

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References and Sources

The following are the references and recommended sources for stroke nursing care plans and nursing diagnosis, including interesting resources to further your reading about the topic:

See Also

You may also like the following posts and care plans:

Neurological Care Plans

Nursing care plans for related to nervous system disorders:

Matt Vera is a registered nurse with a bachelor of science in nursing since 2009 and is currently working as a full-time writer and editor for Nurseslabs. During his time as a student, he knows how frustrating it is to cram on difficult nursing topics. Finding help online is nearly impossible. His situation drove his passion for helping student nurses by creating content and lectures that are easy to digest. Knowing how valuable nurses are in delivering quality healthcare but limited in number, he wants to educate and inspire nursing students. As a nurse educator since 2010, his goal in Nurseslabs is to simplify the learning process, break down complicated topics, help motivate learners, and look for unique ways of assisting students in mastering core nursing concepts effectively.

21 thoughts on “12 Stroke (Cerebrovascular Accident) Nursing Care Plans”

  1. I love this site and it has helped me so much through school, but I need to address an intervention here: One should NEVER massage any reddened areas. Please fix this

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