Increased intracranial pressure (ICP) NCLEX practice questions for nursing students. Increased intracranial pressure is a medical emergency and results from too much pressure building within the skull.
In the previous NCLEX review, I explained about other neurological disorders, so be sure to check those reviews out.
As the nurse, it is important to know the pathophysiology of increased ICP, the types of drugs used to treat this condition, signs and symptoms, and the nursing interventions.
Don’t forget to watch the lecture on increased intracranial pressure before taking the quiz.
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Increased Intracranial Pressure (ICP) NCLEX Questions
1. Select the main structures below that play a role with altering intracranial pressure:
C. Cerebrospinal Fluid
F. Dura mater
The answers are A, C, and D. Inside the skull are three structures that can alter intracranial pressure. They are the brain, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and blood.
2. The Monro-Kellie hypothesis explains the compensatory relationship among the structures in the skull that play a role with intracranial pressure. Which of the following are NOT compensatory mechanisms performed by the body to decrease intracranial pressure naturally? Select all that apply:
A. Shifting cerebrospinal fluid to other areas of the brain and spinal cord
B. Vasodilation of cerebral vessels
C. Decreasing cerebrospinal fluid production
D. Leaking proteins into the brain barrier
The answers are B and D. These are NOT compensatory mechanisms, but actions that will actually increase intracranial pressure. Vasoconstriction (not dilation) decreases blood flow and helps lower ICP. Leaking of protein actually leads to more swelling of the brain tissue. Remember water is attracted to protein (oncotic pressure).
3. A patient is being treated for increased intracranial pressure. Which activities below should the patient avoid performing?
D. Valsalva maneuver
F. Keeping the head of the bed between 30- 35 degrees
The answers are A, B, D, and E. These activities can increase ICP.
4. A patient is experiencing hyperventilation and has a PaCO2 level of 52. The patient has an ICP of 20 mmHg. As the nurse you know that the PaCO2 level will?
A. cause vasoconstriction and decrease the ICP
B. promote diuresis and decrease the ICP
C. cause vasodilation and increase the ICP
D. cause vasodilation and decrease the ICP
The answer is C. An elevated carbon dioxide level (52 is high…normal 35-45) in the blood will cause vasodilation (NOT constriction), which will increase ICP (normal ICP 5 to 15 mmHg). Therefore, many patients with severe ICP may need to be mechanical ventilated so PaCO2 levels can be lowered (30-35), which will lead to vasoconstriction and decrease ICP (with constriction there is less blood volume and flow going to the brain and this helps decrease pressure)….remember Monro-Kellie hypothesis.
5. You’re providing education to a group of nursing students about ICP. You explain that when cerebral perfusion pressure falls too low the brain is not properly perfused and brain tissue dies. A student asks, “What is a normal cerebral perfusion pressure level?” Your response is:
A. 5-15 mmHg
B. 60-100 mmHg
C. 30-45 mmHg
D. >160 mmHg
The answer is B. This is a normal CPP. Option A represents a normal intracranial pressure.
6. Which patient below is at MOST risk for increased intracranial pressure?
A. A patient who is experiencing severe hypotension.
B. A patient who is admitted with a traumatic brain injury.
C. A patient who recently experienced a myocardial infarction.
D. A patient post-op from eye surgery.
The answer is B. Remember head trauma, cerebral hemorrhage, hematoma, hydrocephalus, tumor, encephalitis etc. can all increase ICP.
7. A patient with increased ICP has the following vital signs: blood pressure 99/60, HR 65, Temperature 101.6 ‘F, respirations 14, oxygen saturation of 95%. ICP reading is 21 mmHg. Based on these findings you would?
A. Administered PRN dose of a vasopressor
B. Administer 2 L of oxygen
C. Remove extra blankets and give the patient a cool bath
D. Perform suctioning
The answer is C. It is important to monitor the patient for hyperthermia (a fever). A fever increases ICP and cerebral blood volume, and metabolic needs of the patient. The nurse can administer antipyretics per MD order, remove extra blankets, decrease room temperature, give a cool bath or use a cooling system. Remember it is important to prevent shivering (this also increases metabolic needs and ICP).
8. A patient has a ventriculostomy. Which finding would you immediately report to the doctor?
A. Temperature 98.4 ‘F
B. CPP 70 mmHg
C. ICP 24 mmHg
D. PaCO2 35
The answer is C. A ventriculostomy is a catheter inserted in the area of the lateral ventricle to assess ICP. It will help drain CSF during increase pressure readings and measure ICP. The nurse must monitor for ICP levels greater than 20 mmHg and report it to the doctor.
9. External ventricular drains monitor ICP and are inserted where?
A. Subarachnoid space
B. Lateral Ventricle
C. Epidural space
D. Right Ventricle
The answer is B. External ventricular drains (also called ventriculostomy) are inserted in the lateral ventricle.
10. Which of the following is contraindicated in a patient with increased ICP?
A. Lumbar puncture
B. Midline position of the head
C. Hyperosmotic diuretics
D. Barbiturates medications
The answer is A. LPs are avoided in patients with ICP because they can lead to possible brain herniation.
11. You’re collecting vital signs on a patient with ICP. The patient has a Glascoma Scale rating of 4. How will you assess the patient’s temperature?
The answer is A. This GCS rating demonstrates the patient is unconscious. If a patient is unconscious the nurse should take the patient’s temperature either via the rectal, tympanic, or temporal method. Oral and axillary are not reliable.
12. A patient who experienced a cerebral hemorrhage is at risk for developing increased ICP. Which sign and symptom below is the EARLIEST indicator the patient is having this complication?
B. Decerebrate posturing
D. Unequal pupil size
The answer is C. Mental status changes are the earliest indicator a patient is experiencing increased ICP. All the other signs and symptoms listed happen later.
13. Select all the signs and symptoms that occur with increased ICP:
A. Decorticate posturing
C. Decrease in pulse pressure
F. Decerebrate posturing
The answers are A, D, E, and F. Option B is wrong because bradycardia (not tachycardia) happens in the late stage along with an INCREASE (not decrease) in pulse pressure.
14. You’re maintaining an external ventricular drain. The ICP readings should be?
A. 5 to 15 mmHg
B. 20 to 35 mmHg
C. 60 to 100 mmHg
D. 5 to 25 mmHg
The answer is A. Normal ICP should be 5 to 15 mmHg.
15. Which patient below with ICP is experiencing Cushing’s Triad? A patient with the following:
A. BP 150/112, HR 110, RR 8
B. BP 90/60, HR 80, RR 22
C. BP 200/60, HR 50, RR 8
D. BP 80/40, HR 49, RR 12
The answer is C. These vital signs represent Cushing’s triad. There is an increase in the systolic pressure, widening pulse pressure of 140 (200-60=140), bradycardia, and bradypnea.
16. The patient has a blood pressure of 130/88 and ICP reading of 12. What is the patient’s cerebral perfusion pressure, and how do you interpret this as the nurse?
A. 90 mmHg, normal
B. 62 mmHg, abnormal
C. 36 mmHg, abnormal
D. 56 mmHg, normal
The answer is A. CPP is calculated by the following formula: CPP=MAP-ICP. The patient’s CPP is 90 and this is normal. A normal CPP is 60-100 mmHg.
17. According to question 16, the patient’s blood pressure is 130/88. What is the patient’s mean arterial pressure (MAP)?
The answer is C. MAP is calculated by taking the DBP (88) and multiplying it by 2. This equals 176. Then take this number and add the SBP (130). This equals 306. Then take this number and divide by 3, which equal 102.
18. During the assessment of a patient with increased ICP, you note that the patient’s arms are extended straight out and toes pointed downward. You will document this as:
A. Decorticate posturing
B. Decerebrate posturing
C. Flaccid posturing
The answer is B.
19. While positioning a patient in bed with increased ICP, it important to avoid?
A. Midline positioning of the head
B. Placing the HOB at 30-35 degrees
C. Preventing flexion of the neck
D. Flexion of the hips
The answer is D. Avoid flexing the hips because this can increase intra-abdominal/thoracic pressure, which will increase ICP.
20. During the eye assessment of a patient with increased ICP, you need to assess the oculocephalic reflex. If the patient has brain stem damage what response will you find?
A. The eyes will roll down as the head is moved side to side.
B. The eyes will move in the opposite direction as the head is moved side to side.
C. The eyes will roll back as the head is moved side to side.
D. The eyes will be in a fixed mid-line position as the head is moved side to side.
The answer is D. This is known as a negative doll’s eye and represents brain stem damage. It is a very bad sign.
21. A patient is receiving Mannitol for increased ICP. Which statement is INCORRECT about this medication?
A. Mannitol will remove water from the brain and place it in the blood to be removed from the body.
B. Mannitol will cause water and electrolyte reabsorption in the renal tubules.
C. When a patient receives Mannitol the nurse must monitor the patient for both fluid volume overload and depletion.
D. Mannitol is not for patients who are experiencing anuria.
The answer is B. All the other options are correct. Mannitol will PREVENT (not cause) water and electrolytes (specifically sodium and chloride) from being reabsorbed….hence it will leave the body as urine.
22. What assessment finding requires immediate intervention if found while a patient is receiving Mannitol?
A. An ICP of 10 mmHg
B. Crackles throughout lung fields
C. BP 110/72
D. Patient complains of dry mouth and thirst
The answer is B. Mannitol can cause fluid volume overload that leads to heart failure and pulmonary edema. Crackles in the lung fields represent pulmonary edema and requires immediate intervention. Option A is a normal ICP reading and shows the mannitol is being effective. BP is within normal limits, and dry mouth/thirst will occur with this medication because remember we are trying to dehydrate the brain to keep edema and intracranial pressure decreased.
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