What is cardiogenic shock?

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.

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

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/17/2018.


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