What Is Third Spacing?

Are you curious to know what is third spacing? You have come to the right place as I am going to tell you everything about third spacing in a very simple explanation. Without further discussion let’s begin to know what is third spacing?

Third spacing is a medical condition that occurs when fluid accumulates in the interstitial spaces of the body, instead of being distributed evenly in the body’s compartments. In this blog, we will discuss what third spacing is, what causes it, and the potential complications it can cause.

What Is Third Spacing?

Third spacing occurs when fluid shifts from the bloodstream into the interstitial spaces of the body, which are the spaces between the cells. Normally, fluid is distributed evenly between the bloodstream, intracellular spaces, and interstitial spaces. However, when third spacing occurs, fluid accumulates in the interstitial spaces, leading to swelling and fluid buildup.

Third spacing can occur in any part of the body, but it is most commonly seen in the abdomen, chest, and limbs. It can lead to a number of complications, including dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and organ failure.

Causes Of Third Spacing

There are many factors that can cause third spacing, including:

  • Trauma Or Surgery: Trauma or surgery can cause inflammation and fluid buildup in the interstitial spaces.
  • Liver Or kidney Disease: Liver or kidney disease can lead to fluid accumulation in the abdomen and other parts of the body.
  • Burns: Burns can cause significant fluid shifts and third spacing, leading to edema and tissue damage.
  • Infections: Certain infections, such as sepsis, can cause third spacing due to the body’s inflammatory response.
  • Certain Medications: Certain medications, such as corticosteroids, can cause fluid retention and third spacing.

Complications Of Third Spacing

Third spacing can lead to a number of complications, including:

  • Dehydration: Third spacing can lead to significant fluid loss, which can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Hypotension: Fluid loss can also lead to low blood pressure, which can cause dizziness, weakness, and fainting.
  • Organ Failure: If the third spacing is severe and left untreated, it can lead to organ failure, including kidney failure, liver failure, and heart failure.
  • Delayed Wound Healing: Third spacing can impair the healing of wounds and surgical incisions, leading to complications and increased risk of infection.

Treatment Of Third Spacing

Treatment of third spacing depends on the underlying cause of the fluid accumulation. In some cases, simply addressing the underlying cause may be enough to resolve the fluid buildup. In other cases, medical interventions such as diuretics or intravenous fluids may be necessary to reabsorb the fluid and prevent further complications.


In conclusion, third spacing is a medical condition in which fluid accumulates in the interstitial spaces of the body, leading to swelling and other complications. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including trauma, disease, and medication, and can lead to dehydration, organ failure, and other complications if left untreated. Early detection and treatment are important to prevent further complications and improve outcomes for patients with third spacing.

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What Are Examples Of Third Spacing?

An example of severe third spacing is ascites, as seen in severe liver failure as a result of a low albumin level in the circulating blood. Third space is also a term used to refer to, for example, the bowel with an ileus, and the collection of fluid therein, usually post-operatively.

What Causes 3rd Spacing?

Basically, third-spacing occurs due to decreased oncotic pressure in the intravascular space. This drop in oncotic pressure means fluid will “leak out” of the intravascular space into the interstitial space (and yes, this can include the interstitial spaces in the brain leading to cerebral edema!).

What Is The Difference Between Edema And Third Spacing?

Edema may form which is an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the interstitium; and “third spacing” which refers to an abnormal accumulation of fluid within body tissue or a body cavity may occur.

How Do I Know If My Patient Is Third Spacing?

Phases of third-spacing

Fluid loss from diarrhea, vomiting, or bleeding can be measured, but fluid loss from third-spacing isn’t so easy to quantify. Signs and symptoms include weight gain, decreased urinary output, and signs of hypovolemia, such as tachycardia and hypotension.


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