Hypovolemic shock is a medical emergency that occurs from significant blood and/ or fluid losses in the body leaving the heart unable to pump sufficient blood.
Hypovolemic shock is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention. It occurs from significant blood and/ or fluid losses in the body leaving the heart unable to pump efficiently, causing insufficient blood supply to the body. It may eventually progress for many of the body organs to stop working. It is the leading cause of death in people with traumatic injuries. Hypovolemic shock is also called haemorrhagic shock.
When a person suffers from excessive bleeding, blood flow is not sufficient to the body. It is the blood that carries the oxygen and other essential nutrients needed by the body to function properly. When these substances are lost more quickly than it is replaced, the body organs begin to fail. Thus when the heart begins to fail pumping enough blood, symptoms of shock begin to show. In some cases, it may begin to show the trauma triad of death, a vicious cycle that can quickly lead to death if not acted upon immediately.
Causes of Hypovolemic Shock
The normal blood volume in a healthy adult is typically between 4.7 and 5 litres. When a person loses about a fifth (20%) or more of this normal blood volume, it can cause hypovolemic shock. Some of the possible causes of blood and fluid loss in the body are the following:
- Blood loss:
- Bleeding from cuts, wounds and other injuries
- Internal bleeding, such as in the gastrointestinal tract or other organs
- Fluid loss:
- Excessive diarrhoea
- Persistent vomiting
- Excessive sweating
Signs and Symptoms of Hypovolemic Shock
Signs and symptoms of hypovolemic shock will vary depending on how much blood and fluid loss is. However, it must be noted that all symptoms of shock are fatal and must be treated as medical emergencies. Symptoms of external bleeding will be evident, whereas there might be troubles identifying internal bleeding until symptoms show. Some of the signs and symptoms of hypovolemic shock include:
- Low blood pressure
- Weak pulse
- Increased heart rate
- Chest pain
- Cyanosis of lips and fingernails
- Cool, pale, clammy skin
- Little or no urine output
- Excessive sweating
- Short, shallow breaths
- External bleeding: profuse bleeding at injury site
- Internal bleeding: bleeding from outlets of the body, including, vomiting blood, blood in the urine or stool, vaginal bleeding; abdominal pain and swelling; chest pain
Complications of Hypovolemic Shock
If hypovolemic shock is left untreated, it will result to death. The other complications may include:
- Damage to the organs, including the brain, kidneys, etc.
- Gangrene (tissues death) of the extremities
- Heart attack
First Aid Management for Hypovolemic Shock
A person should call for the emergency medical services immediately for symptoms of hypovolemic shock. While waiting for the paramedics, first aid may be given to help avoid complications from developing. The following steps are generally recommended:
- Keep the person comfortable cover with a blanket or coat to avoid hypothermia.
- Assist the person to lying down flatly with the feet elevated about 12 inches to increase circulation. However, if there is a suspected head, neck, back, or leg injury, do not move the individual’s position unless there is danger in the immediate environment.
- Do not attempt to give anything by mouth to avoid choking.
- If the individual is suffering from an allergic reaction, treat appropriately.
Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice and should not be substituted for formal training. The information given should not be used for self-diagnosis. Seek medical attention when necessary. It is important to recognise medical emergencies at all times to avoid complications from developing. To learn more about to how to manage hypovolemic shock, enrol in basic first aid and CPR training like standard or emergency first aid.
Hypovolemic shock. (2012). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved October 16, 2013, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000167.htm
Nall, Rache (2012). Hypovolemic Shock. Healthline. Retrieved October 16, 2013, from http://www.healthline.com/health/hypovolemic-shock?toptoctest=expand