Obstructive Shock

Obstructive shock

Obstructive shock is a type of shock that occurs when there is a physical obstruction or blockage within the circulatory system, leading to reduced blood flow and inadequate perfusion of vital organs. Shock is a medical emergency that occurs when the body’s organs and tissues do not receive enough oxygen and nutrients to function properly.

In the case of obstructive shock, the blockage prevents blood from flowing effectively through the circulatory system, causing a decrease in cardiac output (the amount of blood the heart pumps per minute) and subsequent organ dysfunction. The obstruction can be caused by various factors, such as:

Pathophysiology and Underlying Causes

Cardiogenic shock arises from a spectrum of cardiac conditions that impair the heart’s ability to effectively pump blood. These conditions contribute to decreased contractility, increased afterload, and reduced preload, collectively leading to diminished cardiac output. Some common underlying causes include:

Cardiac tamponade

This occurs when fluid (usually blood) accumulates in the pericardial sac, the membrane surrounding the heart. The accumulated fluid puts pressure on the heart, preventing it from filling and pumping blood effectively.

Tension pneumothorax

This is a condition where air accumulates in the pleural space (between the lungs and the chest wall) and creates pressure on the heart and great vessels, obstructing blood flow.

Pulmonary embolism

A pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot or other material blocks one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs, reducing blood flow to the lungs and affecting the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively.

Aortic stenosis

This is a narrowing of the aortic valve, which can impede the flow of blood from the heart into the aorta and the rest of the body.

Constrictive pericarditis

In this condition, the pericardium (the sac surrounding the heart) becomes thickened and rigid, impairing the heart’s ability to expand and contract properly.

In this condition, the pericardium (the sac surrounding the heart) becomes thickened and rigid, impairing the heart’s ability to expand and contract properly.

Signs and Symptoms


Confusion or Restlessness
Inadequate blood flow to the brain can lead to confusion, restlessness, or altered mental status.

Anxiety and Agitation
As the body’s oxygen supply becomes compromised, feelings of anxiety and agitation can develop.

Weakness and Fatigue
The body’s organs and tissues may not receive enough oxygen and nutrients, leading to profound fatigue and weakness.

Fainting or Loss of Consciousness
often results in low blood pressure, causing dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting.


Rapid, Shallow Breathing (Tachypnea)
Breathing may become rapid and shallow as the body attempts to increase oxygen intake to compensate for reduced oxygen delivery.

Shortness of Breath:
Due to the reduced blood flow and oxygen delivery, individuals may experience difficulty breathing and feel short of breath, even at rest.

Heart Rate

Rapid Heart Rate (Tachycardia)
The heart beats faster to compensate for the decreased blood volume and maintain blood pressure.

Weak or absent peripheral pulses
Peripheral pulses (such as those in the wrist or ankles) may be weak or difficult to detect due to reduced blood flow to the extremities.

Blood Pressure

Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension)

As the blood volume drops, blood pressure may decrease, leading to reduced perfusion of vital organs.

Skin Condition

Pale, Cool, Clammy Skin
The skin may appear pale, cool to the touch, and clammy due to vasoconstriction and reduced blood flow to the skin. Poor blood circulation can lead to cool and clammy skin, especially in the extremities (hands and feet).

A bluish tint to the lips, fingertips, or skin can occur due to insufficient oxygen in the blood.

Chest Pain

Depending on the underlying cause, patients may experience chest discomfort or pain.

Other signs and Symptoms

Abdominal distention

If the obstruction affects the blood flow returning from the abdomen, it can lead to abdominal swelling.

Nausea and Vomiting

Inadequate blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract can cause nausea and vomiting.

Decreased Urine Output

The kidneys reduce urine production in response to low blood volume, leading to decreased urine output.

Jugular venous distention (JVD)

This can occur when there is increased pressure in the veins leading to the heart, often visible as bulging neck veins.

It’s important to note that the severity of these symptoms can vary depending on the degree of blood volume loss and the speed at which it occurs. Hypovolemic shock is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. If you suspect someone is experiencing hypovolemic shock, seek medical help immediately. In the meantime, try to keep the person lying down, elevate their legs if possible, and cover them with a blanket to help maintain body temperature. Do not give them anything to eat or drink, as they may require medical intervention.

Treatment – Obstructive Shock

Assess and Prioritize

Quickly assess the patient’s condition and prioritize interventions based on their level of distress and medical history.

Assess Airway, Breathing, and Circulation (ABCs)

Perform a systematic primary survey, ensuring a patent airway, adequate breathing, and circulation. If necessary, initiate advanced airway management techniques.

Initiate Oxygen Therapy

Administer supplemental oxygen to increase oxygen saturation and improve oxygen delivery to tissues. if Spo2 is below 94%. Adequate oxygen delivery is crucial for organ function.

ECG and 12-Lead Electrocardiogram (ECG)

Initiate an ECG and Perform a 12-lead ECG to assess for ST-segment elevation, indicative of myocardial ischemia. Timely recognition of AMI can guide appropriate interventions.

Intravenous Access and Fluid Management

Establish intravenous access for medication administration and fluid resuscitation. Administer intravenous fluids judiciously to maintain preload and optimize cardiac output.

If the patient is hypotensive, carefully administer intravenous fluids (crystalloids) to help restore blood pressure and improve circulation. The type and amount of fluids will depend on the patient’s specific condition and medical history

Medication Administration

Depending on the underlying cause and clinical presentation, paramedics may administer medications to improve cardiac output, reduce the obstruction, or manage symptoms.

Definitive Treatment

If tension pneumothorax is suspected, needle decompression.

Pain Management

Administer appropriate analgesics to alleviate chest pain and reduce patient anxiety. Effective pain management can contribute to improved hemodynamics.

Continuous Reassessment

Continuously reassess the patient’s response to interventions and adjust treatment strategies as needed. Document changes in clinical status, vital signs, and interventions administered.

Transport Decision and Communication

Collaborate with the receiving medical facility to discuss patient condition, interventions performed, and estimated time of arrival.

Communication and Documentation

Continuously communicate with your team and provide detailed documentation of your assessment, interventions, and the patient’s response to treatment.

It’s important for paramedics to work collaboratively with other members of the healthcare team, such as emergency department staff and physicians, to ensure a seamless transition of care and appropriate follow-up interventions at the hospital. The specific treatment approach will depend on the patient’s presentation, available resources, and protocols established by the local emergency medical services agency.