Can You Die From Low Blood Pressure?

Ask a Doctor

My grandmother has been sick in the hospital, but she seemed on the mend until yesterday. That was when doctors checked her blood pressure, and it was dangerously low. I’m worried about her – can you die from low blood pressure?

Doctor’s Response

If low blood pressure causes lack of blood flow to the organs of the body, then those organs will start to fail. This may result in stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and bowel ischemia (decreased blood supply to the small and large intestine).

Shock and death are the end result of prolonged low blood pressure. But usually, low blood pressure with no symptoms requires little intervention.

If low blood pressure is associated with chest pain, shortness of breath, or occurs because of active bleeding, treatment will occur at the same time as the diagnostic evaluation. These combinations may be truly life-threatening, and the healthcare provider may need to transfer the patient to an emergency department for further care. A patient with low blood pressure who is symptomatic may be considered to be in shock (a situation where organs can't function properly because of lack of blood supply).

Intravenous fluids and oxygen may be given, and heart monitoring may be necessary. Based upon the underlying complaints and potential diagnosis, specific therapy may be started even without a firm diagnosis. Examples include antibiotics for a patient with an infection, adrenaline and an antihistamine for a patient with an allergic reaction, or blood transfusion for a patient who is bleeding.

More often, a patient presents with a history of symptoms but is feeling normal upon presentation for care. In this circumstance, the healthcare provider has time to make a more specific diagnosis and match the treatment to the underlying cause of the low blood pressure.

If the blood pressure readings are abnormally low, observation in a hospital setting may be appropriate. This again will be dependent on the specific situation and patient presentation.

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Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care


Kaufmann, Horatio, et al. "Mechanisms, causes, and evaluation of orthostatic hypotension." UptoDate. Updated Feb. 2, 2015.