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Critical Care Research and Practice
Volume 2011, Article ID 105348, 8 pages
Review Article

Use of Physiologic Reasoning to Diagnose and Manage Shock States

Department of Anesthesia, Stanford University School of Medicine, 300 Pasteur Drive H3580, Stanford, CA 94305, USA

Received 30 November 2010; Revised 14 May 2011; Accepted 14 June 2011

Academic Editor: Samuel A. Tisherman

Copyright © 2011 Geoffrey Lighthall. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Shock states are defined by stereotypic changes in well-known physiologic parameters. While these well-known changes provide a convenient entry point into further evaluation of patients in shock or at risk for shock, use of such physiologic evaluation is not commonly seen in clinical medicine. A formal description of physiologic reasoning in the diagnosis of shock states is presented in this paper. Included with this conceptual framework is a discussion of key tests or findings that can be used to differentiate between possible diagnoses, and the pairing of treatment strategies to distinct classes of physiologic abnormalities. It is hoped that the methodology presented here will demonstrate the primacy of physiologic reasoning in the diagnosis and treatment of hemodynamic instability. Advantages of this method are speed and accuracy, efficient use of resources, and mitigation against sources of medical errors.