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Cardiogenic Shock: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

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Cardiogenic shock is a life-threatening condition where your heart suddenly stops pumping enough oxygen-rich blood to your body. This condition is an emergency situation that is usually brought on by a heart attack. It is discovered as it happens and requires immediate treatment in the hospital.

Cardiogenic shock

What causes cardiogenic shock?

A severe heart attack can damage the heart’s main pumping chamber (left ventricle). When this happens, the body can’t get enough oxygen-rich blood. In rare cases of cardiogenic shock, it is the bottom right chamber of the heart (right ventricle) that is damaged. The right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs, where it gets oxygen and then goes to the rest of the body.

Other conditions that make the heart weak and can lead to cardiogenic shock include:

  • Myocarditis: Inflammation of the heart muscle
  • Endocarditis: An infection of the heart’s inner lining and valves
  • Arrhythmias: An abnormal heart rhythm
  • Pericardial tamponade: Too much fluid or blood around the heart
  • Pulmonary embolism: An artery in the lung is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot

It is important to get immediate treatment if you have any symptoms of a heart attack, such as:

  • Chest pain that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. Your chest may feel heavy, tight, full or numb; you may feel pressure, aching, burning or squeezing. The pain may feel like heartburn.
  • Pain or discomfort in your upper body and/or down your left arm
  • Trouble breathing
  • Sweating or “cold sweats”
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Feeling very weak, light-headed and/or anxious

Other symptoms related to cardiogenic shock can include:

  • Confusion or not being alert
  • Fainting
  • Very low blood pressure
  • Weak pulse
  • Breathing too fast
  • Less urine than normal
  • Cool hands and feet
  • Pale skin

How is cardiogenic shock diagnosed?

Several tests can be used to find out if you have cardiogenic shock. These can include:

  • Blood pressure: Cardiogenic shock usually causes low blood pressure.
  • Cardiac catheterization: A long, thin tube called a catheter is inserted in an artery through a small incision, usually near your groin or wrist. Dye is used to look for blocked areas in the arteries. Your doctor can also use a catheterization to check the amount of blood your heart is pumping with each beat (cardiac output).
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG): A recording of your heart’s electrical activity.
  • Echocardiogram: An ultrasound of your heart.
  • Chest X-rayTo check for fluid in your lungs and get pictures of your heart and blood vessels.
  • Blood tests: To check the oxygen level in your blood and check for damage to major organs, such as your kidneys and liver.

What treatments are available for patients with cardiogenic shock?

Cardiogenic shock is a life-threatening condition and patients need emergency treatment. The most important part of treatment is improving the flow of blood and oxygen to major organs to avoid damage.

Treatment may include:

  • Life support to restore blood flow to major organs
  • Medication to prevent blood clots, make the heart stronger and get more blood to major organs
  • Devices to help the heart pump enough blood to the organs and rest of the body

Can cardiogenic shock be prevented?

Because cardiogenic shock is usually caused by a heart attack, getting immediate treatment for a heart attack is the best way to prevent cardiogenic shock.

See your doctor to find out your risk of heart disease and take steps to improve your heart health. If you have coronary artery disease (CAD), it is important to see your doctor as recommended and follow all steps in your plan of care (medications, lifestyle changes, etc.).

What are the risk factors for cardiogenic shock?

Several factors can increase your risk of cardiogenic shock. These include:

  • Older age
  • ++Heart failure++
  • A prior ++heart attack++ – this risk is higher among women
  • ++Coronary heart disease++
  • ++High blood pressure++
  • ++Diabetes++

How does cardiogenic shock affect my life?

The impact cardiogenic shock has on your life depends on how quickly you get treatment. The less time you are in shock, the better because there is less damage to major organs. Without treatment, the condition can lead to death.

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