How to Assess For Hypovolemic Shock

Hypovolemic shock occurs when there is not enough blood to carry oxygen around the body. This causes the tissues to become starved of vital oxygen and allows toxic byproducts to build up.

First aiders and first responders should be able to assess a patient and recognise hypovolemic shock. It is important to call for early advanced medical help and attempt to control the source of the blood loss. Shock is a serious medical emergency with a high mortality rate.

How to Assess For Hypovolemic Shock

  1. Assess colour of the patient: are they pale or pink? Is there any evidence of cyanosis?
  2. Assess temperature: feel the hands, do they feel warm to touch or cool and clammy?
  3. Measure for a Capillary Refill Time (CRT).
    • Press for five seconds on the chest or fingers
    • Count how long it takes for the skin to return to normal colour
    • A normal CRT should be less than 2 seconds
  4. Measure the pulse rate
    • Common locations are the wrist (radial artery), elbow crease (brachial artery) or neck (carotid artery)
  5. Assess the pulse character: is it strong and bounding or thready and weak? 
  6. Measure blood pressure (if trained)
    • Both manual and electronic methods can be used
  7. Look for a source of bleeding, this may not be immediately obvious as clothing can conceal a significant amount of blood


John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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