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Cardiogenic Shock

Cardiogenic shock is a cardiac emergency and can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated quickly. Anyone who experiences an acute onset of chest pain, fullness, discomfort or pressure; shortness of breath; pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the neck, jaw or stomach; breaks out into a cold sweat, experiences nausea, vomiting or passes out should call 911 immediately. The acute onset of these symptoms could indicate the early stages of cardiogenic shock, heart attack, or another cardiac-related condition.

Cardiogenic shock is a condition in which your heart suddenly can't pump enough blood to meet your body's needs. The condition is most often caused by an extensive heart attack, but not everyone who has a heart attack has cardiogenic shock. Cardiogenic shock is rare, but it's often fatal if not treated immediately. If treated immediately, about half the people who develop the condition survive.

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Causes of Cardiogenic Shock

In most cases, a lack of oxygen to your heart, usually from a heart attack, damages its main pumping chamber (left ventricle). Without oxygen-rich blood circulating to that area of your heart, the heart muscle can weaken and go into cardiogenic shock. However, there are certain traits, conditions or habits may raise your risk for this condition. These are known as risk factors.

Non-Modifiable Risk Factors: These factors are irreversible and cannot be changed. The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing cardiogenic shock:

  • Older age
  • Family History/Genetics
  • Female gender

Modifiable Risk Factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes.

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes: When your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high.
  • Little to no physical activity.
  • Obesity or having a body mass index “BMI” of 30 or greater.
  • Long history of cigarette smoking and/or drug abuse.

Other conditions that contribute to the development of cardiogenic shock:

Symptoms of Cardiogenic Shock

Cardiogenic shock symptoms include the following:

  • Cold hands or feet
  • Fainting
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Pale skin
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Sudden increase in sweating
  • Urinating less than normal or not at all.
  • Weak pulse

Because cardiogenic shock usually occurs in people who are having an extensive heart attack, it's important to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. These include:

  • Chest pain, fullness, discomfort or pressure.
  • Discomfort or pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Lightheadedness/fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia) of over 100 beats per minute.
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Sweating

Diagnosis of Cardiogenic Shock

To make a quick and accurate diagnosis, your doctor will perform tests as well as ask about your symptoms and previous medical history. Some of the diagnostic tests and procedures may include:

Treatment of Cardiogenic Shock

Cardiogenic shock treatment focuses on minimizing the damage from lack of oxygen to your heart muscle and other organs. Some treatment options include medications and medical and surgical procedures.


  • Aspirin will treat pain and inflammation, and reduce risk of a heart attack.
  • Thrombolytic therapy is the administration of drugs called “lytics” or “clot busters” that will help break up or dissolve blood clots.
  • Anticoagulants “blood-thinners” will help treat, prevent and reduce blood clotting.
  • Other antiplatelet drugs such as brilinta and prasugrel.
  • Statins will help reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood.
  • Any combination of the above.

Medical and Surgical Procedures

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Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center
94 Old Short Hills Road
Livingston, NJ 07039
(973) 322-5000
Monmouth Medical Center
300 Second Avenue
Long Branch, NJ 07740
(732) 222-5200
Clara Maass Medical Center
1 Clara Maass Drive
Belleville, NJ 07109
(973) 450-2000
Community Medical Center
99 Highway 37 West
Toms River, NJ 08755
(732) 557-8000
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
201 Lyons Avenue at Osborne Terrace
Newark, NJ 07112
(973) 926-7000
Jersey City Medical Center
355 Grand Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 915-2000
RWJ University Hospital Rahway
865 Stone Street
Rahway, NJ 07065
(732) 381-4200
RWJ University Hospital Somerset
110 Rehill Avenue
Somerville, NJ 08876
(908) 685-2200
RWJ University Hospital Hamilton
1 Hamilton Health Place
Hamilton, NJ 08690
(609) 586-7900
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
1 Robert Wood Johnson Place
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 828-3000
Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus
600 River Avenue
Lakewood, NJ 08701
(732) 363-1900

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