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obstructive shock in pals

Obstructive Shock in PALS

Obstructive shock is a serious condition that can occur in pediatric patients and requires immediate intervention. In Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), identifying and managing obstructive shock is critical to improving patient outcomes.

What is Obstructive Shock?

Obstructive shock occurs when there is a physical obstruction to blood flow, leading to decreased cardiac output and inadequate tissue perfusion. The most common causes of obstructive shock in pediatric patients include tension pneumothorax, cardiac tamponade, and pulmonary embolism.

What are the signs and symptoms of Obstructive Shock?

The signs and symptoms of obstructive shock are similar to other types of shock, including tachycardia, hypotension, and decreased urine output. However, in obstructive shock, these symptoms are often accompanied by other specific signs, such as a decreased or absent breath sounds in tension pneumothorax or muffled heart sounds in cardiac tamponade.

How is Obstructive Shock diagnosed?

In cases where the cause of obstructive shock is not immediately obvious, a thorough physical examination and diagnostic testing, such as chest X-rays or echocardiography, may be necessary to identify the underlying cause.

How is Obstructive Shock treated?

In PALS, the management of obstructive shock involves identifying and treating the underlying cause. For example, in tension pneumothorax, prompt needle decompression is necessary to relieve the pressure and restore normal blood flow. Similarly, in cardiac tamponade, pericardiocentesis may be required to drain the fluid around the heart and improve cardiac output. It is also important to remember that in pediatric patients, the management of obstructive shock may differ from that in adult patients. For example, needle decompression in tension pneumothorax may require a smaller needle and a shallower insertion depth in pediatric patients than in adults.
In addition to treating the underlying cause of obstructive shock, supportive care is also critical in PALS. This may include administering fluids and medications to support cardiac function and maintain adequate tissue perfusion.


Obstructive shock is a serious condition that requires prompt recognition and intervention in pediatric patients. Identifying and managing the underlying cause of obstructive shock, along with supportive care, are key components of PALS. Healthcare providers who are familiar with the signs, symptoms, and management of obstructive shock can play a vital role in improving patient outcomes.

Have questions about our AHA PALS courses? You can find most of the answers on our registration page, but if you don’t see the answer there, feel free to contact us!