Cardiogenic shock is a condition in which your heart suddenly can't pump enough blood to meet your body's needs. Cardiogenic shock is most often caused by a severe heart attack.
Cardiogenic shock is rare, but it's often fatal if not treated immediately. If treated immediately, about half the people who develop cardiogenic shock survive.
Cardiogenic symptoms include:
Symptoms of a heart attack
If you seek medical attention quickly when having these signs or symptoms, you can decrease the chance that you'll develop cardiogenic shock.
When to see a doctor
Cardiogenic shock happens when your heart can't pump enough blood to the rest of your body. Most commonly, cardiogenic shock happens when your heart's main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, is damaged due to a lack of oxygen caused by a heart attack.
A heart attack occurs when one or more of the arteries supplying your heart with oxygen-rich blood (coronary arteries) become blocked. Over time, a coronary artery can become narrowed from the buildup of cholesterol. This buildup — collectively known as plaques — in arteries throughout the body is called atherosclerosis.
During a heart attack, one of these plaques can rupture and a blood clot forms on the site of the rupture and blocks the flow of blood through the artery. Without oxygen-rich blood circulating to that area of your heart, the heart muscle can weaken and progress into cardiogenic shock.
Rarely, cardiogenic shock happens when your heart's right ventricle is damaged. Your heart's right ventricle sends blood to your lungs to receive oxygen before being pumped to the rest of your body. Damage to the right ventricle makes it so your heart can't effectively pump blood to your lungs, so your body doesn't get sufficient oxygen.
Although heart attacks are the most common cause, cardiogenic shock can also occur due to other conditions, such as inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) or infection of the heart valves (endocarditis). Other causes include drug overdoses or poisoning with substances that can affect your heart's pumping ability.
Some people who have a heart attack have a greater risk of developing cardiogenic shock than others have. Factors that increase your risk of cardiogenic shock include:
If not treated immediately, cardiogenic shock can be fatal. Another serious complication of cardiogenic shock is organ damage.
If your heart can't pump enough oxygenated blood out to the rest of your body, your liver, kidneys or other organs could be damaged. The damage to your liver or kidneys can worsen cardiogenic shock, since the kidneys release chemicals that keep your muscles functioning and the liver releases proteins that help your blood to clot. Depending on how long you're in cardiogenic shock, the damage could be permanent.
Tests and diagnosis
Cardiogenic shock is usually diagnosed in an emergency setting. Doctors will check for signs and symptoms of shock, and will then perform additional tests to find out what's causing your condition. Tests to diagnose cardiogenic shock include:
Treatments and drugs
Cardiogenic shock treatment focuses on repairing the damage to your heart muscle and other organs caused by lack of oxygen.
Emergency life support
The best way to prevent cardiogenic shock is to prevent a heart attack from happening. The same lifestyle changes you can use to treat heart disease can help prevent a heart attack. These lifestyle changes include:
If you have a heart attack, quick action can help prevent cardiogenic shock from occurring. Seek emergency medical help immediately if you think you're having a heart attack.
Last Updated: 2011-10-26
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