Monday, November 4, 2013

Plausible Reasons for Collapse

I have a character in his fifties. He’s in good health. In the scene he’s walking along, then just crumples to the ground and is unresponsive. It can’t be a cardiac arrest. What are the possibilities?

There are quite a few. Here are some easy ones to consider:
Simple faint is the easiest.

Heart-wise, there can be problems like a very slow heart rate or a very fast heart rate, either of which can cause the blood pressure to be low. If it’s low enough, there isn’t good circulation to the brain and the victim collapses. There may be little to no warning.

Severe pain can cause a victim to pass out.

A blood clot to the lung (pulmonary embolus) can cause the victim to pass out. Associated symptoms include chest pain and shortness of breath. A risk factor for this is immobility, like prolonged sitting with travel or staying in a position like a crouch for a prolonged time. Surgery, especially of the pelvis or hip is a risk factor. Uncommonly a clotting disorder that makes the blood clot too well (hypercoagulability) can be the cause.

Low blood oxygen can cause collapse, but generally this would be due to something going on, like worsening lung disease or infection.

Low blood sugar can cause collapse—like a diabetic who has taken too much insulin (or an oral medication for diabetes) and not taken in adequate food.

Infection that gets into the blood stream can do it, but again, the victim is going to have symptoms beforehand.

Seizure—a big one—can look like collapse if not seen close up.

Dehydration—due to low volume in the vascular system—causes low blood pressure and collapse.

Internal bleeding—similar mechanism to dehydration. Ulcer, ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm (the aorta is the major artery leaving the heart and descending along the spine. An aneurysm is an enlargement of the vessel, is under increased wall pressure, and can rupture).

If there are other details that might aid in tailoring the scenario, please let me know!

Good luck.

Questions? Comments?
Kelly has worked in the medical field for over twenty years, mainly at large medical centers. With experience in a variety of settings, chances are Kelly may have seen it.
Sometimes truth seems stranger than fiction in medicine, but accurate medicine in fiction is fabulous.

Find Kelly’s fiction at

 *Photo courtesy of Photobucket/amoore36846*


  1. Brilliant blog. Write (haha) up my street - Garrett :)

    1. Write on, Garrett. Write on... :D