The mechanisms that produce paraplegia in patients after TAA repair are complex and involve alterations in regional blood flow to the spinal cord, CSF dynamics, and reperfusion. Although neither the minimal level of blood flow nor the maximal spinal cord pressure that can be tolerated by the spinal cord is known, adjuncts such as CSF drainage and naloxone infusions may allow longer durations of aortic cross-clamping before irreversible ischemia occurs. Because paraplegia is multifactorial and none of the recommended adjuncts alone provides complete protection of the spinal cord, a combination of treatments may be necessary to reduce the prevalence of neurological complications after thoracoabdominal aortic reconstruction. Critical care nurses thus must be acquainted with the advanced monitoring techniques and the pathophysiology behind these new treatment modalities. Advanced assessment skills are also essential to recognize the potential neurological complications that may occur in these patients. Care of patients with TAA is a challenge. Critical care nurses must use multidimensional skills in the areas of hemodynamic monitoring, physical assessment, and psychological counseling to effectively manage postoperative care of these patients.
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