Evidence refutes ATLS shock classification

October 18, 2010 by  
Filed under All Updates, EMS, Resus, Trauma

I have always had a problem with the ATLS classification of hypovolaemic shock, and omit it from teaching as any clinical applicability and reproducibility seem to be entirely lost on me. I was therefore reassured to read that real physiological data from the extensive national trauma registry in the UK (TARN) of 107,649 adult blunt trauma patients do not strongly support this classification. A key observation we regularly make in trauma patients is the frequent presence of normo- or bradycardia in hypovolaemic patients, which is well documented in the literature.

Unreferenced dogma that became viral

An excellent discussion section in this paper states: ‘it is clear that the ATLS classification of shock that associates increasing blood loss with an increasing heart rate, is too simplistic. In addition, blunt injury, which forms the majority of trauma in the UK, is usually a combination of haemorrhage and tissue injury and the classification fails to consider the effect of tissue injury

Testing the validity of the ATLS classification of hypovolaemic shock
Resuscitation. 2010 Sep;81(9):1142-7

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