- Medical Shock Center
- First Aid Essentials Slideshow
- Take the Trauma and First Aid Quiz
- First Aid Sprains & Strains Slideshow Pictures
- Patient Comments: Shock - Cause
- Patient Comments: Shock (Medical) - Type
- Patient Comments: Shock (Medical) - Signs and Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Medical Shock - Experience
- Find a local Doctor in your town
- Shock is a life-threatening medical condition and is a medical emergency. If shock is suspected call 911 or get to an emergency department immediately.
- The main symptom of shock is low blood pressure. Other symptoms include rapid, shallow breathing; cold, clammy skin; rapid, weak pulse; dizziness, fainting, or weakness.
- There are several types of shock: septic shock caused by bacteria, anaphylactic shock caused by hypersensitivity or allergic reaction, cardiogenic shock from heart damage, hypovolemic shock from blood or fluid loss, and neurogenic shock from spinal cord trauma.
- Treatment for shock depends on the cause. Tests will determine the
cause and severity. Usually IV fluids are administered in addition to
medications that raise blood pressure.
- Septic shock is treated with antibiotics and fluids.
- Anaphylactic shock is treated with diphenhydramine (Benadryl), epinephrine (an "Epi-pen"), and steroid medications (solu-medrol).
- Cardiogenic shock is treated by identifying and treating the underlying cause.
- Hypovolemic shock is treated with fluids (saline) in minor cases, and blood transfusions in severe cases.
- Neurogenic shock is the most difficult to treat as spinal cord damage is often irreversible. Immobilization, anti-inflammatories such as steroids and surgery are the main treatments.
- Shock prevention includes learning ways to prevent heart disease, injuries, dehydration and other causes of shock.
What is shock?
Shock is a life-threatening medical condition as a result of insufficient blood flow throughout the body. Shock often accompanies severe injury or illness. Medical shock is a medical emergency and can lead to other conditions such as lack of oxygen in the body's tissues (hypoxia), heart attack (cardiac arrest) or organ damage. It requires immediate treatment as symptoms can worsen rapidly.
Medical shock is different than emotional or psychological shock that can occur following a traumatic or frightening emotional event.
What are the types of shock?
Septic shock results from bacteria multiplying in the blood and releasing toxins. Common causes of this are pneumonia, urinary tract infections, skin infections (cellulitis), intra-abdominal infections (such as a ruptured appendix), and meningitis.
Cardiogenic shock happens when the heart is damaged and unable to supply sufficient blood to the body. This can be the end result of a heart attack or congestive heart failure.
Hypovolemic shock is caused by severe blood and fluid loss, such as from traumatic bodily injury, which makes the heart unable to pump enough blood to the body, or severe anemia where there is not enough blood to carry oxygen through the body.
Neurogenic shock is caused by spinal cord injury, usually as a result of a traumatic accident or injury.
What are the causes of shock?
There are several main causes of shock:
- Heart conditions (heart attack, heart failure)
- Heavy internal or external bleeding, such as from a serious injury or rupture of a blood vessel
- Dehydration, especially when severe or related to heat illness.
- Infection (septic shock)
- Severe allergic reaction (anaphylactic shock)
- Spinal injuries (neurogenic shock)
- Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
What are the symptoms of shock?
Low blood pressure and rapid heart rate (tachycardia) are the key signs of shock.
Symptoms of all types of shock include:
Depending on the type of shock the following symptoms may also be observed:
When should I seek medical care for shock?
Medical shock is a medical emergency. If you suspect shock after an injury, even if the person seems stable, call 911 or get them to an emergency department immediately. Prompt treatment can save a person's life.
The sooner shock is treated, the better. When treated quickly there is less risk of damage to a person's vital organs.
What is the treatment for shock?
Depending on the type or the cause of the shock, treatments differ. In general, fluid resuscitation (giving a large amount of fluid to raise blood pressure quickly) with an IV in the ambulance or emergency room is the first-line treatment for all types of shock. The doctor will also administer medications such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, or dopamine to the fluids to try to raise a patient's blood pressure to ensure blood flow to the vital organs.
Tests (for example, X-rays, blood tests, EKGs) will determine the underlying cause of the shock and uncover the severity of the patient's illness.
Septic shock is treated with prompt administration of antibiotics depending on the source and type of underlying infection. These patients are often dehydrated and require large amounts of fluids to increase and maintain blood pressure.
Anaphylactic shock is treated with diphenhydramine (Benadryl), epinephrine (an "Epi-pen"), steroid medications methylprednisolone (Solu-Medrol), and sometimes a H2-Blocker medication (for example, famotidine [Pepcid], cimetidine [Tagamet], etc.).
Cardiogenic shock is treated by identifying and treating the underlying cause. A patient with a heart attack may require a surgical procedure called a cardiac catheterization to unblock an artery. A patient with congestive heart failure may need medications to support and increase the force of the heart's beat. In severe or prolonged cases, a heart transplant may be the only treatment.
Hypovolemic shock is treated with fluids (saline) in minor cases, but may require multiple blood transfusions in severe cases. The underlying cause of the bleeding must also be identified and corrected.
Neurogenic shock is the most difficult to treat. Damage to the spinal cord is often irreversible and causes problems with the natural regulatory functions of the body. Besides fluids and monitoring, immobilization (keeping the spine from moving), anti-inflammatory medicine such as steroids, and sometimes surgery are the main parts of treatment.
Self-Care at Home
- Call 911 for immediate medical attention any time a person has symptoms of shock. Do not wait for symptoms to worsen before calling for help. Stay with the person until help arrives, and if possible, stay on the line with the 911 dispatcher because they may have specific instructions for you.
- While waiting for help or on the way to the emergency room, check the person's airway, breathing and circulation (the ABCs). Administer CPR if you are trained. If the person is breathing on his or her own, continue to check breathing every 2 minutes until help arrives.
- Do NOT move a person who has a known or suspected spinal injury (unless they are in imminent danger of further injury).
- Have the person lie down on his or her back with the feet elevated above the head (if raising the legs causes pain or injury, keep the person flat) to increase blood flow to vital organs. Do not raise the head.
- Keep the person warm and comfortable. Loosen tight clothing and cover them with a blanket.
- Do not give fluids by mouth, even if the person complains of thirst. There is a choking risk in the event of sudden loss of consciousness.
- Give appropriate first aid for any injuries.
- Direct pressure should be applied to any wounds that are bleeding significantly.
Can shock be prevented?
Learn ways to prevent heart disease, injuries, dehydration and other causes of shock.
What is the outlook for shock?
Prompt treatment of medical shock is essential for the best outcome. Moreover, the outlook depends on the cause of the shock, the general health of the patient, and the promptness of treatment and recovery.
- Generally, hypovolemic shock and anaphylactic shock respond well to medical treatment if initiated early.
- Septic shock is a serious condition with a mortality rate of 24% to 50% according to some estimates. The sooner the infection is treated and fluids are administered, the greater the chances of success. Hospitals are now developing and utilizing specific protocols to identify and aggressively treat septic shock patients.
- Cardiogenic shock has a poor prognosis, with only 1/3 of patients surviving. Because this type of shock results from injury or dysfunction of the heart it is often difficult to treat and overcome.
- Spinal shock also has a very poor prognosis because the spinal cord mediates so many important bodily functions. There are currently very few effective treatments but medical research is making advances in the treatment of spinal injuries.
Medically reviewed by Joseph Palermo, DO; American Osteopathic Board Certified Internal Medicine
MedscapeReference.com. Septic Shock Prognosis.
MedscapeReference.com. Cardiogenic Shock.
Daily Health News
Subscribe to MedicineNet's Skin Care & Conditions Newsletter
MedscapeReference.com. Septic Shock Prognosis.
MedscapeReference.com. Cardiogenic Shock.
Shock - Cause
What was the cause of your medical shock?Post View 12 Comments
Shock (Medical) - Type
What type of medical shock did you experience?Post View 8 Comments
Shock (Medical) - Signs and Symptoms
Do you know someone who experienced a shock? Please describe his/her signs and symptoms.Post View 4 Comments
Shock (Medical) - Treatment
What kinds of treatment were given to a friend or family member who experienced shock?Post
Medical Shock - Experience
Please describe your experience with medical shock.Post View 4 Comments
Top Shock Related Articles
Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix. Appendicitis often causes sings and symptoms such as:
- Abdominal pain in the lower right quadrant
- Abdominal tenderness
- Loss of appetite
Delay in surgery can result in appendix rupture with potentially serious complications.
Blood TransfusionDuring a blood transfusion, blood or blood products are transferred from one person to another. There are two types of transfusions, autologous (your own blood), and donor blood (someone else's blood). There are four blood types: A; B; C; and O.
In addition, each person's blood is either Rh-positive or Rh-negative. It is important to know what to expect before, during, and after a blood transfusion, and the risk factors or complications of a blood transfusion.
Cardiac CatheterizationCardiac Catheterization is an invasive imaging procedure used to evaluate patients at risk of or suffering from heart disease. Other interventional or therapeutic procedures may be performed during cardiac catheterization. Cardiac catheterization in general is a safe procedure; however, examples of risks include: blood clots, abnormal heart rhythms, infection, stroke, or heart attack. The results of the procedure will determine follow-up treatment or procedures.
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) OverviewCongestive heart failure (CHF) refers to a condition in which the heart loses the ability to function properly. Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, myocarditis, and cardiomyopathies are just a few potential causes of congestive heart failure. Signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure may include fatigue, breathlessness, palpitations, angina, and edema. Physical examination, patient history, blood tests, and imaging tests are used to diagnose congestive heart failure. Treatment of heart failure consists of lifestyle modification and taking medications to decrease fluid in the body and ease the strain on the heart. The prognosis of a patient with congestive heart failure depends on the stage of the heart failure and the overall condition of the individual.
Dehydration SlideshowDo you know the signs of dehydration? Dehydration can cause medical complications. Learn the causes, symptoms, treatments, and prevention tips to avoid dehydration.
Dengue FeverDengue fever is contracted from the bite of a striped Aedes aegypti mosquito. Symptoms and signs of dengue include headache, fever, exhaustion, severe joint and muscle pain, rash, and swollen glands. Since dengue is caused by a virus, there is no specific medicine to treat it. Treatment instead focuses on relieving the symptoms.
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)An electrocardiogram is known by the acronyms "ECG" or "EKG" more commonly used for this non-invasive procedure to record the electrical activity of the heart. An EKG is generally performed as part of a routine physical exam, part of a cardiac exercise stress test, or part of the evaluation of symptoms. Symptoms evaluated include:
- shortness of breath,
- or chest pain.
Heart TransplantHeart transplant consists of three operations: 1) harvesting the heart from the donor, 2) removing the recipient's damaged heart, and 3) the implantation of the donor heart. The selection and distribution of donor hearts is a careful process so that the hearts are distributed fairly. For the patient requiring a heart transplant, all other important organs in the body must be in good shape. The most common complication of heart transplant is organ rejection.
Low Blood PressureLow blood pressure, also referred to as hypotension, is blood pressure that is so low that it causes symptoms or signs due to the low flow of blood through the arteries and veins. Some of the symptoms of low blood pressure include:
- dizziness, or
- even fainting if not enough blood is getting to the brain.
Low Blood PressureWhat is low blood pressure (hypotension)? Explore low blood pressure causes, symptoms, and signs. Discover what is considered low blood pressure.
Staph InfectionStaphylococcus or Staph is a group of bacteria that can cause a multitude of diseases. Staph infections can cause illness directly by infection or indirectly by the toxins they produce. Symptoms and signs of a Staph infection include redness, swelling, pain, and drainage of pus. Minor skin infections are treated with an antibiotic ointment, while more serious infections are treated with intravenous antibiotics.
Staph Infection SlideshowDo you know what a staph infection is? Learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of staph infections (Staphylococcus aureus), and how this group of bacteria can cause a multitude diseases ranging from mild to potentially fatal.
Total Hip ReplacementDuring total hip replacement, diseased hip cartilage and bone is replaced with artificial materials. Risks of the surgery include blood clots in the lower extremities, difficulty with urination, infection, bone fracture, scarring, limited range of motion, and prosthesis failure.