Cardiogenic shock

Cardiogenic shock is a dangerous condition in which a suddenly weakened heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. One of many kinds of shock, cardiogenic shock can be fatal if it’s not treated quickly.

What causes cardiogenic shock?

Cardiogenic shock is often a result of damage to the heart muscle after a heart attack. When a heart attack is fatal, cardiogenic shock is often to blame.

In many cases, the heart’s left ventricle, which pumps oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body, doesn’t work properly. Vital organs (brain, kidney, liver, etc.) can be permanently damaged in the process. Sometimes a heart attack causes damage to other parts of the heart muscle, including the heart valves or the wall separating the ventricles, which leads to cardiogenic shock.

Other conditions that can weaken the heart and prevent it from pumping enough blood to the body include:

  • Myocarditis
  • Endocarditis
  • Arrhythmia
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Drug overdose or poisoning

Symptoms of cardiogenic shock

Common symptoms of cardiogenic shock include:

  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Sudden loss of consciousness
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • A weak pulse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Confusion
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Cool hands and feet
  • Pale, blotchy or clammy skin

How is cardiogenic shock diagnosed?

Doctors will immediately look for the specific cause of cardiogenic shock using some of the following tests:

How is cardiogenic shock treated?

Emergency medical treatment is needed right away to restore blood flow to the body’s organs. Because cardiogenic shock is often diagnosed after a heart attack, many people are already in the hospital when it happens.

Treatment for cardiogenic shock may include the following:

  • Emergency life support measures
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Breathing support through a ventilator
  • Medication to prevent blood clots or increase the heart’s pumping force
  • Intra-aortic balloon pump
  • Left ventricular assist device (LVAD)
  • Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) and stents
  • Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG)
  • Surgery to repair damaged heart structures (valves, walls)