What is Third Space Fluid?

SimpleNursing Editorial Team May 11, 2023
Women receives IV drip treatment

Jump to Sections

  1. What is third spacing?
  2. Third Spacing Fluids

There are three types of fluids that can accumulate in third spacing: transcellular, intravascular, and interstitial. Third spacing is a condition that can have serious implications for patients. It can occur in various situations, including severe trauma, burns, sepsis, pancreatitis, and other inflammatory conditions.

Patients with liver or kidney diseases, heart failure, or lymphatic obstruction are also at higher risk of developing third spacing.

Third spacing can present with various symptoms, including swelling, edema, decreased urine output, low blood pressure, increased heart rate, and altered mental status. It is crucial to monitor patients carefully for these symptoms and to take immediate action if they occur.

As a nursing student, understanding third spacing and third space fluid is essential for providing effective patient care. 

What is third spacing?

Third spacing occurs when too much fluid moves from the intravascular space (blood vessels) into the interstitial space. The interstitial space is the nonfunctional area between cells.

This fluid shift leads to a decrease in intravascular volume, which can cause significant problems for patients.

Proper functioning include fluids moving freely between the intravascular, interstitial, and transcellular spaces. However, in third spacing, fluid accumulates in areas where it should not be present, leading to swelling, edema, and decreased organ perfusion.

Third spacing can occur in various situations, and it is important to recognize the symptoms early to prevent further complications.

Third Spacing Fluids

The management of third spacing depends on the underlying cause. Treatment usually involves fluid resuscitation, administration of medications like diuretics, and addressing the underlying condition. In severe cases, patients may require mechanical ventilation or dialysis.

Assessment of third spacing involves monitoring blood pressure, heart rate, urine output, and level of consciousness. Physical examination for signs of edema and ascites, as well as laboratory tests to evaluate blood electrolyte levels and kidney function tests, can help in the diagnosis of third spacing.

Transcellular Fluid

Transcellular fluid is fluid contained within specific body cavities or spaces, such as cerebrospinal fluid, pleural fluid, peritoneal fluid, or synovial fluid. When this fluid accumulates abnormally, it can lead to a decrease in intravascular volume and cause organ dysfunction.

Intravascular Fluid

Intravascular fluid is fluid present within the blood vessels. In conditions like sepsis, anaphylaxis, and burns, the intravascular space can become leaky, accumulating fluid in the interstitial space. This can result in hypovolemic shock, where the body’s organs do not receive enough blood flow, leading to organ failure.

Interstitial Fluid

Interstitial fluid is the fluid present in the spaces between cells and tissues. When the interstitial fluid accumulates in large quantities, it can lead to edema and decreased organ perfusion. This can cause organ dysfunction and affect the body’s ability to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance.

Understand Nursing Concepts Much More Easily

SimpleNursing offers interactive learning experiences, such as adaptive exams, that engage students and help them retain information better than traditional study methods. We provide access to study materials and practice exams anytime, anywhere, making it easier to fit studying into their busy schedules.

Sign up today and supplement your nursing school reading.

Want to ace Nursing School Exams & the NCLEX?

Make topics click with easy-to-understand videos & more. We've helped over 1,000,000 students & we can help you too.


Nursing students trust SimpleNursing

Simplenursing student
I cannot express enough gratitude for Nurse Mike and this wonderful platform he has created. I had a subscription to SimpleNursing the entire 2 years of my nursing school career and it was the best resource I had available to me. The visuals, the explanations, the memory tricks, the songs, the study guides, and the test questions are brilliant.
read more
Simplenursing student
Before starting nursing school, I was a C-average student. I didn't think I'd be competent enough and make it through my second semester. I was told about SimpleNursing and purchased it immediately. Long story short, I graduated nursing school with honors and passed all of my classes with As and Bs only. I would have never been able to do that without the help of SimpleNursing. Nurse Mike teaches in the only way that I am able to learn and I cannot thank him enough.
read more