Quantcast VITAL SIGNS

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moved, all suspected or known fractures should be stabilized (with splints, traction splints, or the like). Step 21.—Check for a distal pulse and capillary refill. To make sure there are no circulatory problems in the legs or feet, check the distal pulse and capillary refill. The distal pulse is a pulse taken at the foot or wrist. It is called distal because the pulse is located at the distal end of the limb. The distal pulse of the foot, also referred to as pedal pulse, may be taken at either of two sites: the posterior tibial pulse (located behind the medial ankle) or the dorsalis pedis pulse (located on the anterior surface of the foot, lateral to the large tendon of the great toe). You should compare the quality of the pulses in each lower limb. Absence of a distal pulse usually indicates that a major artery supplying the limb has been pinched or severed. This condition may be caused by a broken or displaced bone end or a blood clot. An absent or weak distal pulse may also result from splints or bandages being applied too tightly. Check capillary refill by squeezing a toe (usually, the big toe) with your thumb and forefinger. The skin and nail where pressure is applied should blanch (lighten). When you release the pressure, the color (blood) should return immediately. If it takes more than 2 seconds for the color to return, capillary refill is considered delayed. NOTE: After splints or bandages are applied, check capillary refill to make sure circulation has not been impaired. Step 22.—Check for nerve function and possible paralysis of the lower extremities (conscious patient). Check the lower extremities of conscious patients for nerve function or paralysis. First, touch a toe and ask the patient which toe it is. Do this to both feet. If the patient cannot feel your touch or if the sensations in each foot are not the same, assume that nerve damage in the limb or a spinal injury has occurred. If sensations appear normal and no injuries are present, have the patient wave his feet. Finally, ask the patient to gently press the soles of his feet against your hand. The inability of the patient to perform any of these tasks indicates the possibility of nerve damage. When nerve damage is suspected, assume the patient has a spinal injury. Step 23.—Examine the upper extremities for injury. Check for signs of injury to the upper extremities (arms and hands) by inspecting each limb, one at a time, from clavicle to fingertips. Rearrange or remove items of clothing to observe the entire examination site. Check for point tenderness, swelling, or bruising. Any of these symptoms may indicate a fracture. Immobilize any limb where a fracture is suspected. Step 24.—Check for a distal pulse and capillary refill. To make sure the circulation to the upper extremities has not been compromised, confirm distal (radial) pulse. Initial check of radial pulse was performed during the primary survey. Check capillary refill of fingers or palm of hand (see step 21 for procedure). If there is no pulse or if capillary refill is delayed, the patient may be in shock or a major artery supplying the limb has been pinched, severed, or blocked. Step 25.—Check for nerve function and possible paralysis of the upper extremities (conscious patient). Check the upper extremities of conscious patients for nerve function or paralysis. Have the patient identify the finger you touch, wave his hand, and grasp your hand. Do this to both hands. If the patient cannot feel your touch or the sensations in each hand are not the same, assume nerve damage in the limb or a spinal injury has occurred. WARNING: Be alert for a rapid onset of difficult breathing or respiratory arrest. These conditions may occur to patients who have sustained a cervical injury. Step 26.—Inspect the back and buttocks for injury. If there is no indication of injury to the skull, neck, spine, or extremities, and you have no evidence of severe injury to the chest or abdomen, gently roll the conscious patient as a unit toward your knees and inspect the surface of the back for bleeding or obvious injuries. The back surface may be inspected prior to positioning the patient for transport or delayed until the patient is transferred to a spineboard or other immobilization device. VITAL SIGNS.Vital signs (which generally are taken after primary, secondary, and head-to-toe surveys have been completed) include taking the patient’s pulse, respiration, blood pressure, and temperature. Depending on local protocols, the patient’s level of consciousness as well as eye pupil size and reactivity may be recorded with vital signs. Skin characteristics, such as temperature, color, and 4-9



 


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