Skip to main content

Septic Shock

Septic Shock

What is shock? — Shock is a condition that happens when blood pressure is low and not enough blood or oxygen gets to the body's organs and tissues. This can cause confusion and other symptoms.
Shock is a life-threatening condition. A person in shock needs treatment right away. Without treatment, the organs in the body will stop working. This causes death.
What are the symptoms of shock? — The symptoms depend on the cause of the shock and how severe it is. The main symptoms of shock include:
Low blood pressure – If you take the person's pulse, it might feel weak.
Fast heart rate
Acting differently from normal. This can include:
•Acting confused – A person in shock might have trouble paying attention to instructions, or not realize where they are.
•Not responding when someone talks to them
Cool clammy skin or red, flushed skin
Urinating much less than usual
Should I see a doctor or nurse? — Yes, as soon as possible. Many people who are in shock are already in a hospital. If you are not in a hospital, you or someone with you should call the doctor or nurse if:
You have an injury or infection and any of the main symptoms of shock.
Had a recent surgery or hospital stay, and now are sick or have an infection.
If your doctor or nurse cannot see you right away, or you cannot reach them, go to the nearest emergency room. If you have a serious injury, such as a broken leg or bleeding wound, call for an ambulance right away (dial 9-1-1 in the US and Canada).
Will I need tests? — Yes. The doctor or nurse will do tests to find the cause of the shock. These can include:
Blood tests
Urine tests
Imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans, or ultrasound – These imaging tests create pictures of the inside of the body.
Heart tests – These can include a test called an "electrocardiogram" or "ECG" and a test called an "echocardiogram." These tests can show heart problems that could cause shock.
How is shock treated? — Treatment for shock depends on the cause. Treatments can include:
Treatments to stop bleeding – If the shock is caused by bleeding, doctors and nurses can put pressure on the area that is bleeding or sew it up.
Fluids that go into a vein through a thin tube called an "IV"
Blood transfusion – This is when a person gets blood that was donated by someone else. The blood goes into a vein.
Treatments to get rid of fluid, air, or blood in the belly or around the heart or lungs – Doctors can use a thin needle to take it out, or do surgery.
Emergency surgery – This can treat injuries that cause shock.
Antibiotics that go into a vein through an IV – This can treat infections that cause shock.
Steroids that go into a vein through an IV – These can treat allergies that can cause shock. These are not the same as the steroids some athletes illegally.
Other medicines to treat allergies, for example, if shock is caused by a serious allergy to bee stings or a food
Medicines to increase blood pressure while doctors treat the cause of shock
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 83175 Version 11.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
© 2020 UpToDate, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.

6 popular Septic Shock drugs

New! No Prescription? No problem.

Affordable Online Care is here! Answer a few questions about your concern and receive a treatment plan in as little as 15 minutes, from a board-certified provider, 100% online.

Learn more
Illustration of a prescription hand off from one mobile phone to another