Shock is a medical emergency in which the organs and tissues of the body are not receiving an adequate flow of blood. This deprives the organs and tissues of oxygen (carried in the blood) and allows the buildup of waste products. Shock can result in serious damage or even death.
There are three stages of shock: Stage I (also called compensated, or nonprogressive), Stage II (also called decompensated or progressive), and Stage III (also called irreversible).
In Stage I of shock, when low blood flow (perfusion) is first detected, a number of systems are activated in order to maintain/restore perfusion. The result is that the heart beats faster, the blood vessels throughout the body become slightly smaller in diameter, and the kidney works to retain fluid in the circulatory system. All this serves to maximize blood flow to the most important organs and systems in the body. The patient in this stage of shock has very few symptoms, and treatment can completely halt any progression.
In Stage II of shock, these methods of compensation begin to fail. The systems of the body are unable to improve perfusion any longer, and the patient's symptoms reflect that fact. Oxygen deprivation in the brain causes the patient to become confused and disoriented, while oxygen deprivation in the heart may cause chest pain. With quick and appropriate treatment, this stage of shock can be reversed.
In Stage III of shock, the length of time that poor perfusion has existed begins to take a permanent toll on the body's organs and tissues. The heart's functioning continues to spiral downward, and the kidneys usually shut down completely. Cells in organs and tissues throughout the body are injured and dying. The endpoint of Stage III shock is the patient's death.
Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt MD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,