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Nursing Resource Guide




Although the terms are used interchangeably, atherosclerosis (or “hardening of the arteries”) is one type of arteriosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis is actually a generic term for a number of diseases in which the arterial wall becomes thickened and loses elasticity.

Atherosclerosis is where plaque builds up and sticks to the walls of the larger arteries. Plaque is made up of cholesterol and fatty substances found in blood as well as other particles found in blood.

Keep in mind

Plaque can accumulate in an area and continue to build up until it is large enough to occlude the flow of blood through an artery. This can lead to tissue ischemia (tissue dies d/t lack of oxygen past the point of the blockage) and cause pain. Pain would increase with exercise d/t greater oxygen demand from the tissues during exercise.

Another danger of plaque is it could slow down the flow of blood in the area of the plaque and stagnant blood clots. If a clot forms and then breaks free into the bloodstream it can travel to the brain (potential for Stroke), heart (potential for MI/heart attack) or in the legs, or lungs etc.

Patient symptoms to watch out for

Note any c/o areas of pain, at rest or while walking to the BR, and/or numbness or tingleing. Do your circulatory checks (temp. color, pulses) to see if blood is no longer getting to all the extremities/areas it was on your last assessment or if different then in the report you got from the last shift.

Monitor for s/s of MI (heart attack/myocardial infarction.)

Watch for symptoms of pulmonary embolism. Assess for labored breathing, possibly accompanied by chest pain, rapid pulse, cough that produces bloody sputum, low fever, auscultate lungs for fluid.

Assess for neurologiacal status/ change of neuro status to pick up on s/s of a TIA (transient ischemic attack, also known as "mini-stroke") or stroke. Talk to patient, as they answer you will be checking their neuro status and to be sure of their neuro status ask them to state their name, where they are and the date (A&Ox3). To further check you can watch for one-sided facial droop and one-sided weakness, assess pupals for bilateral size and reactivity to light.

Medications you may see these patients on:

Anticoagulants-thins the blood and helps prevent clots from forming

Vasodilators-to widen the vascular system to allow better blood flow

Statins-to lower lowering the levels of LDL cholesterol in the body

Cholesterol-Lowering Medications (external site)

Treatments may include: Angioplsty, Bypass, Amputation



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