Cardiogenic Shock

What is Cardiogenic Shock?

Cardiogenic shock is usually a condition that hits suddenly. It is a condition where the heart is not able to pump enough blood to provide the body with oxygen. This condition is usually caused by a heart attack, usually a severe one.

This type of shock is very rare, but it can be fatal if you do not receive medical treatment immediately. Only about half of the patients who develop this disorder survive.

What are the Symptoms of Cardiogenic Shock?

The symptoms of cardiogenic shock show up extremely quick.

Symptoms include

  • Sudden rapid breathing.
  • Shortness of breath or inability to catch your breath.
  • Sudden rapid heart rate.
  • Weakened pulse.
  • Sudden sweating.
  • Appearing pale.
  • Unexplained cold hands and feet.
  • Urinating less frequently or cessation of urination.

Usually, the symptoms appear with or after a severe heart attack. Because of this, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack as well.

Heart attack symptoms

  • Feeling a pressure in the chest. Sometimes this is described as a fullness or squeezing pain.
  • Pain that extends past the chest and progresses into the shoulder, back or left arm. At times, the pain may occur in the jaw or the teeth as well.
  • Chest pain that happens in episodes, usually increasing in duration.
  • Pain in the upper abdomen that lasts for an extended period of time.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Sudden sweating for no reason.
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy for no reason.
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Cardiogenic Shock Causes

Cardiogenic Shock is caused by the heart’s inability to pump enough blood to the rest of the body, which, itself, is usually caused by heart diseases or abnormalities. The complications contributing to cardiogenic shock are almost always produced by a heart attack. When a person suffers a myocardial infarction, serious damage to the heart muscle may occur.

For instance, a large segment of the heart may no longer move or function as it should, or the heart may break open or rupture. Tears in the muscles and tendons related to the heart valves or in the septum (the wall between the left and right ventricles) may also lead to the patient developing cardiogenic shock.

In some cases, the heart may no longer have a healthy rhythm, such as is the case with ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, or supraventricular tachycardia, and this can lead to cardiogenic shock in the patient. Additionally, a much slower than normal rhythm or an irregular electrical system in the heart can also cause cardiogenic shock.

How is Cardiogenic Shock Treated?

The treatment for cardiogenic shock can vary depending on the severity of the situation. Emergency care is required for this condition and hospitalization is necessary.

Treatment includes

One of the most common treatments for this condition is emergency life support. Patients in cardiogenic shock require additional oxygen to breathe. This helps to prevent further damage to the organs and muscles from oxygen deprivation.

It may be necessary to introduce a ventilator if the patient is having a lot of difficulty breathing. IV medications are usually necessary, as well as IV fluids to prevent dehydration and ensure that the medications work properly.

A number of medications may be given to reduce the amount of stress put on the body. These medications are to ensure that the heart is able to provide enough blood to the body, as well as increase the effectiveness even if the heart attack caused damage.

Medications include

  • Aspirin: Aspirin thins the blood and prevents blood from clotting unnecessarily. It also helps increase the amount of blood that can pump through an artery that has narrowed from the heart attack.
  • Thromoblytics: Thrombolytics are medications that help break up existing clots. They are given after a heart attack because the blood has a higher chance of clotting.
  • Superasprins: These are given to prevent the body from creating new blood clots. They are given through an IV.
  • Various Blood Thinners: There are many blood thinners that your emergency doctor may find necessary to prevent further damage or symptoms from developing from the heart attack.
  • Inotropic Agents: Used to improve the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively. This will help your heart function better until the other medications they give you are able to work.

Cardiogenic Shock Prevention

As indicated, cardiogenic shock is most commonly brought on following a heart attack, so acting to prevent the latter will also decrease the chances of suffering from the former. Following the acts recommended to avoid heart disease is the best way to reduce the risk of a heart attack and the consequences that come from heart damage.

Controlling one’s blood pressure is vital in ensuring heart health. This is done through keeping stress reduced and maintaining a healthy weight. Exercise, moderate to low alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking can all lead to better blood pressure levels.

Lowering one’s cholesterol and the amount of saturated fat in your diet can also contribute to a healthier heart. In cases where a change of diet has had little effect on cholesterol levels, a doctor may prescribe medication.

Regular exercise is equally vital to strengthening one’s heart and preventing the conditions that lead to cardiogenic shock. Even 30 minutes a day will help.

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Last Reviewed:
September 18, 2016
Last Updated:
November 28, 2017