Shock overview

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Shock is a clinical syndrome characterized by inadequate oxygenation and perfusion to supply the body's metabolic needs. There is simply a loss of sufficient blood pressure to generate an adequate pressure gradient to maintain tissue perfusion. This leads to a loss of oxygen supply and the deterioration of energy dependent processes at cellular level and lactic acidosis.

Shock is a serious, life-threatening medical condition where insufficient blood flow reaches the body tissues. As the blood carries oxygen and nutrients around the body, reduced flow hinders the delivery of these components to the tissues, and can stop the tissues from functioning properly. The process of blood entering the tissues is called perfusion, so when perfusion is not occurring properly this is called a hypoperfusional state. The body has homeostatic mechanisms to compensate for hypoperfusion, but when these are overwhelmed, several physiological and metabolic derangements result.

Shock should not be confused with the emotional state of shock, as the two are not related. Medical shock is a life-threatening medical emergency and one of the most common causes of death for critically-ill people. Shock can have a variety of effects, all with similar outcomes, but all relate to a problem with the body's circulatory system. For example, shock may lead to hypoxia (a lack of oxygen in the body tissues) or cardiac arrest (the heart stopping).[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]


  1. Irwin, Richard S. (2003). Intensive Care Medicine. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia & London. ISBN 0-7817-3548-3. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help); Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help); External link in |title= (help)
  2. Marino, Paul L. (2006). The ICU Book. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia & London. ISBN 0-7817-4802-X. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help); External link in |title= (help)
  3. "Fundamental Critical Care Support, A standardized curriculum of Critical Care". Society of Critical Care Medicine, Des Plaines, Illinois.
  4. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine.
  5. "Cecil Textbook of Medicine".
  6. The Oxford Textbook of Medicine.
  7. Shock: An Overview PDF by Michael L. Cheatham, MD, Ernest F.J. Block, MD, Howard G. Smith, MD, John T. Promes, MD, Surgical Critical Care Service, Department of Surgical Education, Orlando Regional Medical Center Orlando], Florida