Cardiogenic shock

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Cardiogenic shock
Ultrasound showing cardiogenic shock due to myocarditis[1]
SymptomsFatigue, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, hypotension, sweating[2]
CausesHeart attack, myocarditis, endocarditis, certain medications and substances[2]
Risk factorsHeart failure, old age, hypertension[2]
PrognosisFor patients where the cause is not due to a heart attack, the mortality rate is still relatively high, at about 60%; some progress has been made in treating CS when due to a heart attack, and the mortality rate is now somewhat lower for those with MI who survive and are treated rapidly with current therapies (February 2021)[3]

Cardiogenic shock (CS) is a medical emergency resulting from inadequate blood flow due to the dysfunction of the ventricles of the heart.[4][5][6][7][8] Signs of inadequate blood flow include low urine production (<30 mL/hour), cool arms and legs, and altered level of consciousness. People may also have a severely low blood pressure and heart rate.

Causes of cardiogenic shock include cardiomyopathic, arrhythmic, and mechanical. CS is most commonly precipitated by acute myocardial infarction.[9] Cardiogenic shock is a type of circulatory shock, in which there is insufficient blood flow and oxygen supply for biological tissues to meet the metabolic demands for oxygen and nutrients. Cardiogenic shock is defined by sustained low blood pressure with tissue hypoperfusion despite adequate left ventricular filling pressure. People can have combined types of shock. Shock by definition is inadequate blood circulation to the rest of the body, which causes organ damage. Organs do not have enough oxygen delivery, and cannot adequately maintain their cellular metabolism.

Treatment of cardiogenic shock depends on the cause with the initial goals to improve blood flow to the body. This can be done in a number of ways—fluid resuscitation, blood transfusions, vasopressors, and ionotropes. If cardiogenic shock is due to a heart attack, attempts to open the heart's arteries may help. An intra-aortic balloon pump or left ventricular assist device may improve matters until this can be done. Medications that improve the heart's ability to contract (positive inotropes) may help; however it is unclear which is best and at present there is no convincing evidence supporting inotropic or vasodilating therapy to reduce mortality in hemodynamically unstable patients.[10] Norepinephrine may be better if the blood pressure is very low whereas dopamine or dobutamine may be more useful if only slightly low.[11] Cardiogenic shock is a condition that is difficult to fully reverse even with an early diagnosis. With that being said, early initiation of mechanical circulatory support, early percutaneous coronary intervention, inotropes, and heart transplantation may improve outcomes.[12][13][14][15][16] Care is directed to the dysfunctional organs (dialysis for the kidneys, mechanical ventilation for lungs dysfunction).[17]

Mortality rates have been decreasing in the United States. This is likely due to the rapid identification and treatment of the CS. Some studies have suggested that this possibly related to the increased use of coronary reperfusion strategies, like heart stents. Nonetheless, the mortality rates remain high.[18] Multi-organ failure is associated with higher rates of mortality.

Signs and symptoms[edit]

The presentation is the following:[citation needed]


Cardiogenic shock is caused by the failure of the heart to pump effectively. It is due to damage to the heart muscle, most often from a heart attack or myocardial contusion.[19] Other causes include abnormal heart rhythms, cardiomyopathy, heart valve problems, ventricular outflow obstruction (i.e. systolic anterior motion (SAM) in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), or ventriculoseptal defects. It can also be caused by a sudden decompressurization (e.g. in an aircraft), where air bubbles are released into the bloodstream (Henry's law), causing heart failure.[4][5][6][7][8][20][21]



An electrocardiogram helps to establish the exact diagnosis and guides treatment, it may reveal:


Echocardiography may show poor ventricular function, signs of PED, rupture of the interventricular septum, an obstructed outflow tract or cardiomyopathy.[citation needed]

Swan-Ganz catheter[edit]

The Swan-Ganz catheter or pulmonary artery catheter may assist in the diagnosis by providing information on the hemodynamics.[citation needed]


When cardiomyopathy is suspected as the cause of cardiogenic shock, a biopsy of heart muscle may be needed to make a definite diagnosis.[citation needed]

Cardiac index[edit]

If the cardiac index falls acutely below 2.2 L/min/m2, the person may be in cardiogenic shock.[citation needed]


Depending on the type of cardiogenic shock, treatment involves infusion of fluids, or in shock refractory to fluids, inotropic medications. In case of an abnormal heart rhythm immediate synchronized cardioversion or anti-arrhythmic agents may be administered, e.g. adenosine.

Positive inotropic agents (such as dobutamine or milrinone), which enhance the heart's pumping capabilities, are used to improve the contractility and correct the low blood pressure. Should that not suffice an intra-aortic balloon pump (which reduces workload for the heart, and improves perfusion of the coronary arteries) or a left ventricular assist device (which augments the pump-function of the heart) can be considered. Mechanical ventilation or ECMO may be used to help stabilize people with severe or refractory cardiogenic shock until they can be given some type of definitive treatment, such as a ventricular assist device.[4][5][6] Finally, as a last resort, if the person is stable enough and otherwise qualifies, heart transplantation, or if not eligible an artificial heart, can be placed. These invasive measures are important tools—more than 50% of patients who do not die immediately due to cardiac arrest from a lethal abnormal heart rhythm and live to reach the hospital (who have usually suffered a severe acute myocardial infarction, which in itself still has a relatively high mortality rate), die within the first 24 hours. The mortality rate for those still living at time of admission who suffer complications (among others, cardiac arrest or further abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, cardiac tamponade, a ruptured or dissecting aneurysm, or another heart attack) from cardiogenic shock is even worse around 85%, especially without drastic measures such as ventricular assist devices or transplantation.[citation needed]

Cardiogenic shock may be treated with intravenous dobutamine, which acts on β1 receptors of the heart leading to increased contractility and heart rate.[22]


  1. ^ a b c "UOTW #7 - Ultrasound of the Week". Ultrasound of the Week. 30 June 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "Cardiogenic shock - Symptoms and causes". Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  3. ^ Schrage, Benedikt; Becher, Peter Moritz; Goßling, Alina; Savarese, Gianluigi; Dabboura, Salim; Yan, Isabell; Beer, Benedikt; Söffker, Gerold; Seiffert, Moritz; Kluge, Stefan; Kirchhof, Paulus; Blankenberg, Stefan; Westermann, Dirk (2021). "Temporal trends in incidence, causes, use of mechanical circulatory support and mortality in cardiogenic shock". Esc Heart Failure. 8 (2): 1295–1303. doi:10.1002/ehf2.13202. PMC 8006704. PMID 33605565.
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  21. ^ Introduction to management of shock for junior ICU trainees and medical students Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care of The Chinese University of Hong Kong
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