Chapter 42 Assessment and Management of Patients with Endocrine Disorders
• Effects almost every cell, organ, and function of the body
• The endocrine system is closely linked with the nervous system and the immune system
• Negative feedback mechanism
–Chemical messengers of the body
–Act on specific target cells
Location of the major endocrine glands.
• Sits between the cerebrum and brainstem
• Houses the pituitary gland and hypothalamus
–Pain and pleasure response
–Hunger and thirst
• Releasing and inhibiting hormones
• Corticotropin-releasing hormone
• Thyrotropin-releasing hormone
• Growth hormone-releasing hormone
• Gonadotropin-releasing hormone
• Somatostatin-=-inhibits GH and TSH
• Sits beneath the hypothalamus
• Termed the “master gland”
• Divided into:
–Anterior Pituitary Gland
–Posterior Pituitary Gland
Actions of the major hormones of the pituitary gland.
• Pyramid-shaped organs that sit on top of the kidneys
• Each has two parts:
• Mineralocorticoid—aldosterone. Affects sodium absorption, loss of potassium by kidney
• Glucocorticoids—cortisol. Affects metabolism, regulates blood sugar levels, affects growth,
anti-inflammatory action, decreases effects of stress
• Adrenal androgens— dehydroepiandrosterone and
• Secretion of two hormones
• Serve as neurotransmitters for sympathetic system
• Involved with the stress response
• Butterfly shaped
• Sits on either side of the trachea
• Has two lobes connected with an isthmus
• Functions in the presence of iodine
• Stimulates the secretion of three hormones
• Involved with metabolic rate management and serum calcium levels
• Follicular cells—excretion of triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)—Increase BMR, increase
bone and protien turnover, increase response to catecholamines, need for infant G&D
• Thyroid C cells—calcitonin. Lowers blood calcium and phosphate levels
• BMR: Basal Metabolic Rate
• Embedded within the posterior lobes of the thyroid gland
• Secretion of one hormone
• Maintenance of serum calcium levels
• Parathyroid hormone—regulates serum calcium
• Located behind the stomach between the spleen and duodenum
• Has two major functions
–Releases two hormones: insulin and glucagon
• 1, 25 dihydroxyvitamin D—stimulates calcium absorption from the intestine
• Renin—activates the Renin-Angiotensin System (RAS)
• Erythropoietin—Increases red blood cell production
• Progesterone—important in menstrual cycle, maintains pregnancy,
• Androgens, testosterone—secondary sexual characteristics, sperm production
• Releases thymosin and thymopoietin
• Affects maturation of T lymphocetes
• Affects sleep, fertility and aging
Past Medical History
• Hormone replacement therapy
• Surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation
• Family history: diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, goiter, obesity, Addison’s disease,
• Sexual history: changes, characteristics, menstruation, menopause
• General appearance
–Vital signs, height, weight
–Skin color, temperature, texture, moisture
–Bruising, lesions, wound healing
–Hair and nail texture, hair growth
–Eyes, visual acuity
Palpating the thyroid gland from behind the client. (Source: Lester V. Bergman/Corbis)
–Hand and feet size
–Muscle strength, deep tendon reflexes
–Sensation to hot and cold, vibration
–Lung and heart sounds
Older Adults and Endocrine Function
• Relationship unclear
• Aging causes fibrosis of thyroid gland
• Reduces metabolic rate
• Contributes to weight gain
• Cortisol level unchanged in aging
• Ask the client:
–Maintenance of ADL
–Sensitivity to heat or cold
–Level of appetite
–Urination, thirst, salt craving
Abnormal Findings (continued)
• Ask the client:
–Cardiovascular status: blood pressure, heart rate, palpitations, SOB
–Vision: changes, tearing, eye edema
–Neurologic: numbness/tingling lips or extremities, nervousness, hand tremors, mood changes,
memory changes, sleep patterns
–Integumentary: hair changes, skin changes, nails, bruising, wound healing
Most Common Endocrine Disorders
• Thyroid abnormalities
• Diabetes mellitus
• GH: fasting, well rested, not physically stressed
• T3/T4, TSH: no specific preparation
• Serum calcium/phosphate: fasting may or may not be required
• Cortisol/aldosterone level
• 24 urine collection to measure the level of catacholamines (epinephrine, norepinephrine,
• Thyroid cancer
Hypothyroidism is the disease state caused by insufficient production of thyroid hormone by the
• 30-60 yrs of age
• Mostly women (5 times more than men)
–Autoimmune disease (Hashimoto's
thyroiditis, post–Graves' disease)
–Atrophy of thyroid gland with aging
–Therapy for hyperthyroidism
• Radioactive iodine (131I)
• Radiation to head and neck
4. Weight gain.
5. Memory and mental impairment and decreased
6. masklike face.
7. Menstrual irregularities and loss of libido.
8. Coarseness or loss of hair.
9. Dry skin and cold intolerance.
10. Menstrual disturbances
11. N umbness and tingling of fingers.
12. Tongue, hands, and feet may enlarge
13. Slurred speach
15. Reflex delay.
18. C ardiac and respiratory complications .
LIFELONG THYROID HORMONE REPLACEMENT
• levothyroxine sodium (Synthroid, T4, Eltroxin)
• IMPORTANT: start at low does, to avoid hypertension, heart failure and MI
• Teach about S&S of hyperthyroidism with replacement therapy
• Rare serious complication of untreated hypothyroidism
• Decreased metabolism causes the heart muscle to become flabby
• Leads to decreased cardiac output
• Leads to decreased perfusion to brain and other vital organs
• Leads to tissue and organ failure
• LIFE THREATENING EMERGENCY WITH HIGH MORTALITY RATE
• Edema changes client’s appearance
• Nonpitting edema appears everywhere especially around the eyes, hands, feet, between
• Tongue thickens, edema forms in larynx, voice husky
PROBLEMS SEEN WITH MYXEDEMA COMA
• Respiratory failure
TREATMENT OF MYEXEDEMA COMA
• Patent airway
• Replace fluids with IV.
• Give levothyroxine sodium IV
• Give glucose IV
• Give corticosteroids
• Check temp, BP hourly
• Monitor changes LOC hourly
• Aspiration precautions, keep warm
Clinical Manifestations ( thyrotoxicosis):
1. Heat intolerance.
2. Palpitations, tachycardia, elevated systolic BP.
3. Increased appetite but with weight loss.
4. Menstrual irregularities and decreased libido.
5. Increased serum T4, T3.
6. Exophthalmos (bulging eyes)
7. Perspiration, skin moist and flushed ; however,
elders’ skin may be dry and pruritic
9. Fatigue and muscle weakness
10. Nervousness, irritability, can’t sit quietly.
• Hyperthyroidism is the second most prevalent endocrine disorder, after diabetes mellitus.
• Graves' disease: the most common type of hyperthyroidism, results from an excessive output
of thyroid hormones.
• May appear after an emotional shock, stress, or an infection
• Other causes: thyroiditis and excessive ingestion of thyroid hormone
• Affects women 8X more frequently than men (appears between second and fourth decade)
Medical Management of Hyperthyroidism
• Radioactive 131I therapy
–Propylthiouracil and methimazole
–Sodium or potassium iodine solutions
• Surgery; subtotal thyroidectomy
• Relapse of disorder is common
• Disease or treatment may result in hypothyroidism
• Inflammation of the thyroid gland.
• Can be acute, subacute, or chronic (Hashimoto's Disease)
• Each type of thyroiditis is characterized by inflammation, fibrosis, or lymphocytic infiltration of
the thyroid gland.
• Characterized by autoimmune damage to the thyroid.
• May cause thyrotoxicosis, hypothyroidism, or both
• Can be being benign or malignant.
• If the enlargement is sufficient to cause a visible swelling in the neck, referred to as a goiter.
• Some goiters are accompanied by hyperthyroidism, in which case they are described as toxic;
others are associated with a euthyroid state and are called nontoxic goiters.
• Much less prevalent than other forms of cancer; however, it accounts for 90% of endocrine
• Diagnosis: thyroid hormone, biobsy
–The treatment of choice surgical removal. Total or near-total thyroidectomy is performed if
possible. Modified neck dissection or more extensive radical neck dissection is performed if
there is lymph node involvement.
–After surgery, radioactive iodine.
• Treatment of choice for thyroid cancer
• Preoperative goals include the reduction of stress and anxiety to avoid precipitation of thyroid
• Iodine prep (Lugols or K iodide solution) to decrease size and vascularity of gland to minimize
risk of hemorrhage, reduces risk of thyroid storm during surgery
• Preoperative teaching includes dietary guidance to meet patient metabolic needs and
avoidance of caffeinated beverages and other stimulants,
• Monitor dressing for potential bleeding and hematoma formation; check posterior dressing
• Monitor respirations; potential airway impairment
• Assess pain and provide pain relief measures
• Semi-Fowler’s position, support head
• Assess voice but discourage talking
• Potential hypocalcaemia related to injury or removal of parathyroid glands; monitor for
POST-OP THYROIDECTOMY NURSING CARE
1. VS, I&O, IV
3. Support head
4. Avoid tension on sutures
5. Pain meds, analgesic lozengers
6. Humidified oxygen, suction
7. First fluids: cold/ice, tolerated best, then soft diet
8. Limited talking , hoarseness common
9. Assess for voice changes: injury to the recurrent laryngeal nerve
POSTOP THYROIDECTOMY NURSING CARE
• CHECK FOR HEMORRHAGE 1st 24 hrs:
• Look behind neck and sides of neck
• Check for c/o pressure or fullness at incision site
• Check drain
• REPORT TO MD
• CHECK FOR RESPIRATORY DISTRESS
• Laryngeal stridor (harsh hi pitched resp sounds)
• Result of edema of glottis, hematoma,or tetany
• Tracheostomy set/airway/ O2, suction
• CALL MD for extreme hoarseness
Complication of operation:
Laryngeal nerve damage.
• Four glands on the posterior thyroid gland
• Parathormone regulates calcium and phosphorus balance
–Increased parathormone elevates blood calcium by increasing calcium absorption from the
kidney, intestine, and bone.
–Parathormone lowers phosphorus level.
• Primary hyperparathyroidism is 2–4 X more frequent in women.
• Manifestations include elevated serum calcium, bone decalcification, renal calculi, apathy,
fatigue, muscle weakness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, hypertension, cardiac dysrhythmias,
–Encourage mobility reduce calcium excretion
–Diet: encourage fluid, avoid excess or restricted calcium
Is the following statement True or False?
The patient in acute hypercalcemic crisis requires close monitoring for life-threatening
complications and prompt treatment to reduce serum calcium levels.
• Deficiency of parathormone usually due to surgery
• Results in hypocalcaemia and hyperphosphatemia
• Manifestations include tetany, numbness and tingling in extremities, stiffness of hands and
feet, bronchospasm, laryngeal spasm, carpopedal spasm, anxiety, irritability, depression,
delirium, ECG changes
–Trousseau’s sign and Chvostek’s sign
Management of Hypoparathyroidism
• Increase serum calcium level to 9—10 mg/dL
• Calcium gluconate IV
• May also use sedatives such as pentobarbital to decrease neuromuscular irritability
• Parathormone may be administered; potential allergic reactions
• Environment free of noise, drafts, bright lights, sudden movement
• Diet high in calcium and low in phosphorus
• Vitamin D
• Aluminum hydroxide is administered after meals to bind with phosphate and promote its
excretion through the gastrointestinal tract.
• Adrenal medulla
–Functions as part of the autonomic nervous system
–Catecholamines; epinephrine and norepinephrine
• Adrenal cortex
• Adrenal cortex function is inadequate to meet the needs for cortical hormones
• Primary: Addison’s Disease
• May be the result of adrenal suppression by exogenous steroid use
• Muscle weakness, anorexia, GI symptoms, fatigue, dark pigmentation of skin and mucosa,
hypotension, low blood glucose, low serum sodium, high serum potassium, mental changes,
apathy, emotional lability, confusion
• Addisonian crisis: circulatory collapse
• Diagnostic tests; adrenocortical hormone levels, ACTH levels, ACTH stimulation test
–Restore blood circulation
• Antibiotics if infection
• Identify cause
• Supplement glucocorticoids during stressful procedures or significant illness
• Assess fluid balance
• Monitor VS closely
• Good skin assessment
• Limit activity
• Provide quiet, non-stressful environment
Nursing Process: The Care of the Patient with Adrenocortical Insufficiency
• Level of stress; note any illness or stressors that may precipitate problems
• Fluid and electrolyte status
• VS and postural blood pressures
• Note signs and symptoms related to adrenocortical insufficiency such as weight changes,
muscle weakness, and fatigue
• Monitor for signs and symptoms of Addisonian
Nursing Process: The Care of the Patient with Adrenocortical Insufficiency
• Risk for fluid volume deficit
• Activity intolerance and fatigue
• Knowledge deficit
• Risk for fluid deficit; monitor for signs and symptoms of fluid volume deficit, encourage fluids
and foods, select foods high in sodium, administer hormone replacement as prescribed
• Activity intolerance; avoid stress and activity until stable, perform all activities for patient
when in crisis, maintain a quiet nonstressful environment, measures to reduce anxiety
• Teaching (See Chart 42-10)
• Due to excessive adrenocortical activity or corticosteroid medications
• Women between the ages of 20 and 40 years are five times more likely than men to develop
• Hyperglycemia which may develop into diabetes, weight gain, central type obesity with
“buffalo hump,” heavy trunk and thin extremities, fragile thin skin, ecchymosis, striae,
weakness, lassitude, sleep disturbances, osteoporosis, muscle wasting, hypertension, “moon-
face”, acne, increased susceptibility to infection, slow healing, virilization in women, loss of
libido, mood changes, increased serum sodium, decreased serum potassium
• Diagnosis: Dexamethasone suppression test, ↑ Na+ ↑ glucose, ↓ K+, metabolic alkalosis
• Pituitary tumor
• Adrenal enzyme inhibitors
• Attempt to reduce or taper corticosteroid dose
• Prevent injury
• Increased protein, calcium and vitamin D in diet
• Medical asepsis
• Monitor blood glucose
• Moderate activity with rest periods
• Provide restful environment
Nursing Process: The Care of the Patient with Cushing’s Syndrome
• Activity level and ability to carry out self-care
• Skin assessment
• Changes in physical appearance and patient responses to these changes
• Mental function
• Emotional status
Nursing Process: The Care of the Patient with Cushing’s Syndrome—
• Risk for injury
• Risk for infection
• Self-care deficit
• Impaired skin integrity
• Disturbed body image
• Disturbed thought processes
Collaborative Problems/Potential Complications
• Addisonian crisis
• Adverse effects of adrenocortical activity
Nursing Process: The Care of the Patient with Cushing’s Syndrome
• Planning: Goals may include
1. Decreased risk of injury,
2. Decreased risk of infection,
3. Increased ability to carry out self-care activities,
4. Improved skin integrity,
5. Improved body image,
6. Improved mental function, and
7. Absence of complications
• Decrease risk of injury; establish a protective environment; assist as needed; encourage diet
high in protein, calcium, and vitamin D.
• Decrease risk of infection; avoid exposure to infections, assess patient carefully as
corticosteroids mask signs of infection.
• Plan and space rest and activity.
• Meticulous skin care and frequent, careful skin assessment.
• Explanation to the patient and family about causes of emotional instability.
• Patient teaching.
• A disorder of the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland that is characterized by a deficiency of
ADH (vasopressin). Excessive thirst (polydipsia) and large volumes of dilute urine.
• It may occur secondary to head trauma, brain tumor, or surgical ablation or irradiation of the
pituitary gland, infections of the central nervous system or with tumors
• Another cause of diabetes insipidus is failure of the renal tubules to respond to ADH
• The objectives of therapy are
1. to replace ADH (which is usually a long-term therapeutic program),
2. to ensure adequate fluid replacement, and
3. to identify and correct the underlying intracranial pathology.