Shock is a systemic form of acute circulatory failure leading to cellular dysoxia and death. Such a state of aerobic metabolism failure also underlies neuronal cell death in severe traumatic brain injury. It is becoming increasingly recognized that ischemic hypoxia is not the sole mechanism and that multiple alternate cooperating mechanisms may be responsible for compromising neuronal oxidative metabolism. These different mechanisms can be usefully understood via analysis of the classic subdivisions of tissue hypoxia. This approach could lead to an alternative treatment paradigm toward cerebral oxygen metabolic rate targeting instead of the traditional targets of intracranial and perfusion pressures.