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Cardiogenic Shock

Cardiogenic Shock

  • Normal Heart


Cardiogenic shock is the failure of the heart to pump enough blood to major organs to support life.

What is going on in the body?

Any process that causes severe injury to the heart or interferes with its pumping action can cause shock. Any major organ will stop working if it loses its blood supply; thus, cardiogenic shock is a medical emergency and is usually fatal if not treated.quickly.


What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Any disease that affects the ability of the heart to function can cause this condition. Some of the common causes of cardiogenic shock are as follows:
  • a blood clot to the lungs, known as a pulmonary embolus
  • a buildup of fluid around the heart, known as pericardial effusion
  • certain irregular heart beats, called arrhythmias
  • congestive heart failure
  • a massive heart attack


What can be done to prevent the condition?

A person with heart disease, should seek medical attention if his or her condition gets worse for any reason. Prompt medical attention may catch problems before shock occurs. Taking medicines as prescribed can also prevent shock.
Overall, the best way to prevent oneself from experiencing cardiogenic shock is to eliminate or control risk factors for coronary artery disease such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and high cholesterol.


How is the condition diagnosed?

Cardiogenic shock is usually easily apparent from one's medical history and physical examination. Figuring out the underlying cause is very important and requires further testing. For example, blood tests and a heart tracing, called an ECG, may be done if a heart attack is suspected. Plain or special X-ray tests are also frequently done.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

If untreated, this condition usually causes death. The long-term effects depend on the cause and the speed of diagnosis and treatment. Permanent organ damage, especially to the kidney and brain, can occur.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

There are no risks to others.


What are the treatments for the condition?

The goal of medical therapy is to improve your heart's ability to pump. The treatment depends on the underlying cause of the shock. Many different medicines and devices may be used to try to restore heart function and blood flow. Some of these include:
  • adding or removing fluids, such as blood, water, or salt
  • heart assist devices, such as a pacemaker
  • heart medicines to help the heart pump more effectively, such as digitalis
  • medicines to dissolve blood clots
  • medicines to help open up, or dilate, certain blood vessels
  • oxygen therapy
  • surgery
  • opening blocked vessels with a balloon (angioplasty)
  • a ventilator, or artificial breathing machine

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

All medicines have possible side effects. Ventilators increase the risk of infection. Surgery can be complicated bybleeding, infection, or an allergic reaction to the anesthetic. In some cases, especially when heart surgery has to be performed as an emergency, the patient may not survive.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

Survivors of cardiogenic shock need aggressive treatment and close monitoring of the underlying disease. For some people, the only option for survival beyond a few days to weeks is to undergo a heart transplant.
It is also important to evaluate and treat any damage to other organs which may have resulted from the episode of shock.


How is the condition monitored?

Results of blood tests and urine output are strictly monitored. Progress in the treatment of the underlying disease is also carefully monitored. X-rays and other tests may be required in some cases. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.


Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 1991

Merck Manual, 1999

Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, 1996

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