After an injury or accident interrupts the normal blood flow of the body, the injury victim may go into “shock.” Shock refers to the body's reaction when the major organs and tissues do not get enough blood flow to function properly. Shock can be caused by a number of factors, including blood loss after an accident or interruption with the blood flow caused by a medical mistake during surgery.
What is Shock?
Circulatory shock involves a problem with the circulatory system that results in insufficient blood supply to the tissues and organs of the body. Types of shock include:
- Hypovolemic Shock
- Cardiogenic Shock
- Distributive Shock
- Obstructive Shock
Hypovolemic shock is caused by a drop in fluid volume that impairs the body's ability to pump blood through the circulatory system. Hypovolemic shock or low-volume shock is a medical emergency and can lead to multiple-system organ failure or death.
Hypovolemic shock is generally caused by the loss of blood or loss of other bodily fluids that impair the cardiovascular system. This can include blood loss or severe dehydration. Loss of fluids can be caused by diarrhea and vomiting, not consuming enough fluids, kidney problems, or burn injuries.
Cardiogenic shock involves a problem with the heart that reduces the ability to effectively pump blood throughout the body. Cardiogenic shock generally involves damage to the heart or heart muscles, including a heart attack or myocardial infarction (MI). A heart attack cuts off or restricts blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle, causing the heart muscle to suffer damage. The heart is the main engine that pumps blood through the body and heart damage can lead to shock.
Distributive shock involves dilation of the blood vessels that causes a drop in blood pressure. When blood pressure is too low, the major organs and tissues can not get enough blood and oxygen, sending the body into shock. The most common cause of distributive shock is septic shock. Septic shock is generally caused by serious infections.
Obstructive shock involves blocking or obstructing the large blood vessels that impairs blood flow to the systemic and pulmonary systems. Obstruction of the blood supply can be caused by damage to the heart, such as compression on the heart (as in cardiac tamponade), pulmonary embolism, or tension pneumothorax that restricts blood flow to the heart.
Causes of Shock
Shock can be caused by anything that compromises body circulation. Shock is the body's response to inadequate oxygen and blood supply to the organs and tissues. Shock is often caused by blood loss or fluid loss. Blood loss may be caused by:
- Serious car accident,
- Gunshot wound,
- Puncture wound,
- Internal bleeding,
- Head injury,
- Hemophilia, or
- Surgical complication.
Non-bleeding shock can be caused by the lack of fluid to carry on normal body function, like dehydration or imbalance of body chemicals like electrolytes. Causes of hypovolemic shock not caused by blood loss may include:
- Burn injury, or
- Electrolyte imbalance.
How Shock Affects the Body
Blood loss or fluid loss reduces the volume of blood that can circulate through the body. Without blood and oxygen, the body is not able to function normally. When a person begins to go into shock, the body compensates for the lower blood volume by increasing the heart rate and contract muscles.
The body's sympathetic nervous system is activated, shifting the demand for blood away from noncritical organs and tissues. Peripheral vasoconstriction reduces the flow to outer blood vessels, and the body prioritizes blood supply to the most serious organs, like the heart and brain. The sympathetic nervous system response is generally temporary and if the low-volume problem is not corrected, the individual could face further blood-flow compromise, organ failure, and death.
Hemorrhagic shock is caused by the loss of blood. Hemorrhage is blood loss or bleeding. Hemorrhage can be external, through a cut or traumatic injury. A hemorrhage can also be internal, where the individual is unaware that they are bleeding into the body. Internal hemorrhage can be caused by trauma or a surgical wound reopening.
The first sign of hemorrhagic shock may be tachycardia, or a rapid heart rate. The body may speed up the heart rate to try and make sure blood and oxygen get to the vital functions. The body may also restrict flow to the outer vessels and capillaries, giving the individual cold fingers and toes.
Hypovolemic shock is caused by volume depletion, which includes hemorrhagic shock. The body needs water and salt to function and at the proper balance. Too little water or too little salt can cause hypovolemia, or the loss of extracellular fluid. If hypovolemia is not treated, hypovolemic shock can set in. Signs and symptoms of hypovolemic shock may include:
- Increased or rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
- Pale or cold skin
- Cold extremities
- Slow capillary refill
- Altered mental status
Was Shock Caused by Medical Malpractice?
Shock can be associated with a number of medical complications. Shock can be a consequence of medical malpractice. Additionally, a negligent doctor may not properly monitor or diagnose shock, which could lead to physical injury, organ damage, or death.
Blood Loss and Medical Malpractice
Blood loss or hemorrhage can occur during surgery or following surgery. Negligence in surgery may cause the patient to suffer severe bleeding. A medical mistake may also cause the patient to suffer internal bleeding after surgery, leading to hemorrhagic shock. Possible malpractice in blood loss may include:
- Wrong site surgery
- Wrong patient surgery
- Cutting through an artery
- Failing to address hemorrhage
- Surgical errors leading to bleeding
- Hemorrhage during labor
Hypovolemia and Medical Malpractice
Hypovolemia can be caused by serious infections or sepsis. Infections or sepsis may develop while a patient is under the care of a doctor or surgeon. Failure to properly diagnose and treat serious infections can increase the risk of permanent damage to the body's organs or even lead to death.
Shock and Medical Malpractice Attorneys
If you or a loved one suffered shock under a doctor's care, you should talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney about getting compensation for your lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.