Cardiogenic shock occurs when the heart has been damaged to the point where it cannot pump enough blood to the rest of the body. This condition is usually due to serious heart complications. These complications may occur during or after a severe heart attack and include damage to the heart muscle (stopping the heart from pumping), dangerous heart rhythms, pressure on the heart caused by fluid buildup, problems with the heart’s electrical system, a very slow heart rhythm, or damage to the heart valves (control flow of blood) or septums (walls which separate the four heart chambers).
Symptoms include rapid breathing and heartbeat (tachycardia), shortness of breath, and a loss of consciousness. Other symptoms include a weak pulse, sweating, pale skin, cold hands or feet, or urinating less than normal. About 7% of those who have a heart attack also develop cardiogenic shock.
Cardiogenic shock can also be caused by infections of the heart or a drug overdose. Other risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, smoking, lack of exercise, or a history of heart failure or heart attacks. Age and certain genetic and congenital (present at birth) conditions may also increase your risk.
Cardiogenic shock is a medical emergency. Tests to look for the cause may include a blood pressure test, EKG, echocardiogram, cardiac enzyme and other blood tests, chest X-ray, coronary angiograph, and cardiac catheterization. Increasing blood flow and oxygen to body’s organ is the most immediate focus. Further treatment will depend on the underlying cause but may include medication, insertion of a medical device (e.g. pacemakers) and surgery. Research is ongoing, so talk to your cardiologist about current treatment options if a family member has been diagnosed with cardiogenic shock. Support groups are a good source of information and support.