You may have heard the phrase during a TV drama as a nurse or paramedic rushes to save someone’s life: “They’re going into shock.”
What is shock and why is it such a life-threatening condition?
After a major car accident, victims who suffer from traumatic injuries may experience insufficient blood flow throughout the body. This lack of blood flow can lead to serious complications such as oxygen deprivation, heart attack, and multiple organ damage. Left untreated, the victim will most likely not survive their traumatic injuries.
If you are involved in or witness a car accident, it’s imperative to keep an eye out for symptoms of traumatic shock in yourself or others. A person suffering from shock requires medical attention as soon as possible to restore blood and oxygen flow.
Types of Injuries That May Cause Shock
A variety of severe injuries can cause post-accident shock. These injuries can include, but are not limited to:
- Emotional trauma
- External bleeding (hypovolemic shock)
- Extreme pain
- Heart pain or conditions (cardiogenic shock)
- Infection (septic shock)
- Internal bleeding
- Severe allergic reaction (anaphylactic shock)
- Severe burns
- Spinal injuries (neurogenic shock)
Cardiogenic shock is when the heart has become too damaged to supply blood to the body. This is usually due to a severe heart attack. However, not everyone who suffers a heart attack after a collision suffers from cardiogenic shock.
Hypovolemic shock occurs when a victim loses large amounts of blood and fluids, either through deep lacerations or internal bleeding. The greater the blood loss, the greater the drop in blood pressure. The reduced blood pressure and volume mean the heart can’t pump enough oxygenated blood to the internal organs, limbs, and brain. Lack of treatment can lead to serious or fatal consequences.
Neurogenic shock (also known as vasogenic shock) is caused by an injury to the spinal cord and the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the heart and lungs. Damage to the sympathetic nervous system can cause a drop in blood pressure and lack of oxygen throughout the body. A person suffering from neurogenic shock may have difficulty breathing, weakness, bradycardia (slower heart rhythm), cyanosis (discolored lips or fingers), or hypothermia.
Septic shock is triggered by a significant drop in blood pressure that can lead to respiratory or heart failure, stroke, organ failure, and death. Sepsis is the result of infection and has three stages: (1) The infection reaches the bloodstream, causing an inflammatory reaction; (2) severe sepsis begins to damage organs like the heart, kidneys, and brain; and (3) septic shock sets in. It is generally believed that septic inflammation creates tiny blood clots, blocking vital nutrients and oxygen.
Early Warning Signs Someone Is in Shock
The signs of shock vary from person to person and injury to injury. An injured victim slipping into shock may manifest one or more of the following symptoms:
- Anxiety or agitation
- Bluish lips or digits
- Chest pain
- Cold, clammy skin
- Confusion or unresponsiveness
- Enlarged pupils
- Excessive sweating
- Difficulty breathing
- High blood pressure
- Irregular, weak, or rapid pulse
- Loss of consciousness
- Low blood sugar
- Low body temperature
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pale or ashen skin
After a car accident, physical shock most commonly occurs due to heavy bleeding, broken bones, and back injuries. Although not as common, crush injuries can also lead to emotional and physical shock due to the horrific nature of the damage.
What to Do If Someone Goes Into Shock
If you suspect that you or someone involved in the wreck or incident is going into shock, call 911 or seek emergency medical care as quickly as possible. Do not wait to see if symptoms improve or worsen. A victim suffering from shock can quickly become unconscious or go into physical distress. Listen to the 911 dispatcher in case they have any instructions for you.
First responders will check a shock victim’s pulse and blood pressure and may administer fluids and blood intravenously to get blood and oxygen circulating through the body once more. Once the victim is stabilized, doctors can treat the injury that led to the shock.
If someone is going into shock and emergency responders haven’t arrived yet, there are a few steps you can take to help:
- Keep the person as still as possible. Do not move them unless necessary.
- Don’t let them eat or drink anything.
- Lay the person down and elevate their feet and legs slightly to move blood to the torso and brain. Do not attempt or continue if this action could cause pain or further injury.
- Start CPR if the person shows no signs of life, has no pulse or is unresponsive. The current CPR guidelines recommend that adult victims receive cycles of 30 rapid chest compressions (and two rescue breaths if trained) about 2 inches deep.
- If there is heavy bleeding, use a towel, sheet, or thick cloth to keep pressure over the area.
- If a person vomits or bleeds from the mouth, turn them on their side to prevent choking (unless you suspect they have neck or spinal injury). Never move a spinal injury victim.
Get Medical Treatment ASAP
A person suffering from post-accident shock may need emergency surgery, blood transfusions, or resuscitation. They will require a prolonged period of recovery, which means more time away from work and going without a paycheck, as well as expensive medical bills.
Once you or the victim receives the medical care they need, contact the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates to learn your legal rights. If negligence or recklessness caused the accident, you may be entitled to compensation for damages and hospital bills. We’ll fight to make sure you get every penny you are owed from the insurance company.
Don’t wait. The insurance company may use any delay as an excuse to deny your personal injury claim. Contact our Atlanta car accident lawyers now for a free, no-obligation consultation.