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Nursing Diagnosis for Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome

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Neuroleptic malignant syndrome is a medical emergency and is life threatening. It is a rare side effect of anti-psychotic medications. Symptoms of this syndrome are muscle rigidity, extreme increase in temperature, fluctuating blood pressure and sweating to name a few. Nursing diagnoses for neuroleptic malignant syndrome are formulated based on the symptoms exhibited by a patient.

Respiratory System

The diaphragm is a muscle that is needed for breathing. Rigidity of the diaphragm due to neuroleptic malignant syndrome causes difficulty breathing. This leads to the nursing diagnosis of an ineffective breathing pattern.


Body temperature is regulated by the hypothalamus, which requires dopamine to perform this function. In neuroleptic malignant syndrome, the hypothalamic dopamine receptors are blocked causing hyperthermia. This would lead to the nursing diagnosis of ineffective thermoregulation.


Impaired verbal communication is a nursing diagnosis for neuroleptic malignant syndrome as evidenced by dysarthria, meaning difficulty speaking. Dysarthria is caused due to muscle rigidity where muscles necessary to move the jaw and tongue for speech are rigid.


A person experiencing neuroleptic malignant syndrome may have seizures due to an excessive increase in temperature. During a seizure, a person could be harmed, so the nursing diagnosis is a risk for injury.


Due to muscular rigidity, which is a symptom of neuroleptic malignant syndrome, a person may have dysphagia and that is difficulty to swallowing. This may impair the patients ability to consume adequate nutrients. The nursing diagnosis is a risk for imbalance nutrition (less than body requirements is appropriate in this case).

  • "Psychiatric Mental Health Case Studies and Care Plans;" Kim A. Jakopac and and Patel C. Sudha; 2008
  • "Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing: An Introduction to Theory and Practice;" Patricia G. O'Brien, Winifred Z. Kennedy, Karen A. Ballard; 2007

Ngozi Oguejiofo has been writing on a freelance basis since 2009 and most of her writings are focused on health. She is currently a registered nurse. She is interested in teaching, and writes articles focused on student nurses for various online publications.