Neurogenic Shock vs Hypovolemic Shock

What are Hypovolemic Shock & Neurogenic Shock?

Shock is a life-threatening medical condition characterized by inadequate blood flow and oxygen delivery to the body’s tissues. It can occur due to various causes, including trauma, severe bleeding, heart attack, or certain medical conditions. Other types of shock include cardiogenic shock, which arises from primary cardiac dysfunction, and septic shock, which is related to severe infections. Two types of shock commonly encountered are neurogenic shock and hypovolemic shock. In this article, we will provide a comparative overview of these two types of shock, their causes, symptoms, and treatment options, as recognized by MyCPR NOW.

Neurogenic Shock: Spinal Cord Injury

Neurogenic shock is a type of distributive shock that occurs as a result of damage or dysfunction of the nervous system, particularly the spinal cord. It typically manifests due to spinal cord injuries, spinal anesthesia, or certain neurological conditions. Neurogenic shock is characterized by a loss of sympathetic nervous system tone, resulting in a significant decrease in peripheral vascular resistance and subsequent vasodilation.


  • Spinal cord injuries: Traumatic injuries to the spinal cord, such as those caused by accidents or falls, can disrupt the normal communication between the brain and the body, leading to neurogenic shock. Spinal cord injuries can affect spinal cord function and lead to neurogenic shock.

  • Spinal anesthesia: Administration of anesthesia into the spinal canal can also result in neurogenic shock by interfering with the normal functioning of the spinal cord. Spinal anesthesia can also impact spinal cord function.

  • Neurological conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as spinal cord tumors or infections, can cause neurogenic shock by affecting the integrity and function of the spinal cord.


  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)

  • Bradycardia (slow heart rate)

  • Peripheral vasodilation (warm, flushed skin)

  • Loss of normal compensatory responses, such as increased heart rate or constriction of blood vessels

Spinal shock can occur in the context of spinal cord injuries, affecting nerve function and blood pressure regulation.


The primary goal of treating neurogenic shock is to restore adequate tissue perfusion and blood pressure. Treatment options may include:

  • Ensuring an open airway and providing supplemental oxygen if needed.

  • Administering intravenous fluids to support blood volume and maintain blood pressure.

  • Using vasopressor medications, such as phenylephrine, to increase systemic vascular resistance and restore blood pressure.

  • Immobilizing and providing appropriate care for any associated spinal cord injuries.

Hypovolemic Shock: Blood Volume

Hypovolemic shock is the most common type of shock and occurs when there is a significant loss of blood or fluid volume in the body. It can result from severe bleeding, dehydration, burns, or other conditions that lead to a decrease in circulating blood volume.


- Severe bleeding: Trauma, injuries, or medical conditions that cause severe bleeding can rapidly deplete blood volume and lead to hypovolemic shock.

- Dehydration: Inadequate fluid intake, excessive sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, or conditions like diabetes insipidus can cause dehydration and subsequent hypovolemic shock.

- Burns: Extensive burns can cause fluid loss from damaged skin, leading to hypovolemia and shock.

- Gastrointestinal losses: Conditions like severe diarrhea or excessive vomiting can result in significant fluid and electrolyte losses, contributing to hypovolemic shock.


- Hypotension (low blood pressure)

- Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)

- Cool, pale, clammy skin

- Weak or absent peripheral pulses

- Decreased urine output

- Altered mental status (in severe cases)


The treatment of hypovolemic shock focuses on restoring blood volume and improving tissue perfusion. Key interventions may include:

- Controlling bleeding: If the cause of hypovolemia is severe bleeding, immediate efforts should be made to control the bleeding source.

- Administering intravenous fluids: Fluid resuscitation with crystalloid solutions, such as normal saline or lactated Ringer's solution, is crucial to restore blood volume.

- Transfusing blood products: In cases of significant blood loss, transfusion of packed red blood cells, platelets, or clotting factors may be necessary.

- Addressing the underlying cause: Treating the underlying condition or providing supportive care, such as managing dehydration or burns, is essential.


Neurogenic shock and hypovolemic shock are two distinct types of shock with different underlying causes and pathophysiology. Neurogenic shock occurs as a result of damage or dysfunction of the nervous system, leading to widespread vasodilation and hypotension. On the other hand, hypovolemic shock is caused by a significant loss of blood or fluid volume. While both types of shock require prompt medical intervention, the treatment approaches differ based on the underlying cause. MyCPR NOW recognizes the importance of early recognition and appropriate management of shock conditions and provides comprehensive training programs to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to respond effectively in emergency situations.

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