Stab Wound to the Neck with Neurogenic Shock

This week’s case is written by Dr. Cheryl ffrench. She is the Simulation Director for Emergency Medicine at the University of Manitoba and is one of the advisory board members here at EMSimCases.

Why it Matters

Neurogenic shock is an important manifestation of spinal trauma. This case highlights several important aspects of neurogenic shock:

  • It can be difficult to recognize (especially in a multi-trauma patient)
  • At its presentation, vasopressors are often required to manage blood pressure
  • It should be suspected in trauma cases where the patient is hypotensive without tachycardia

Clinical Vignette

To be stated by EMS: “This is Jamal James. He’s a 21 year-old male who was found in his house by police after being stabbed by a friend. There was a lot of blood at the scene. We found a stab wound on his neck so we initiated spinal precautions. Before we arrived, the police started CPR briefly because they thought he didn’t have a pulse. He had a pulse when we got there but his respiratory effort was poor and he had a decreased LOC. Several attempts to intubate were unsuccessful so we bagged him on the way here. We don’t know anything about his allergies, medications, or past medical history.

Case Summary

A 21 year old male is brought to your tertiary care ED by EMS after being stabbed by a friend. EMS initiated spinal precautions and failed several attempts to intubate en route. On arrival, the patient is being bagged and has a single stab wound to the right posterolateral neck. He requires emergent intubation for airway protection. After intubation, his blood pressure drops but his heart rate remains in the 70s. His blood pressure will stabilize only after appropriate fluid resuscitation and vasopressor initiation.

Download the case here: Stab Wound to Neck

ECG for the case found here:


(ECG source:

CXR for the case found here:

Post Intubation
Post Intubation

(CXR source:

U/S image showing no free fluid in the abdomen found here:

no FF

(U/S image courtesy of McMaster POCUS Subspecialty Training Program)

U/S showing no pericardial effusion found here:

(U/S courtesy of McMaster POCUS Subspecialty Training Program)

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