Cardiogenic shock: a life-threatening condition
Cardiogenic shock is a condition in which the heart suddenly stops pumping enough blood to meet our body’s needs for oxygen and nutrients.
Cardiogenic shock is usually caused by a severe heart attack, but not every patient with a heart attack develops cardiogenic shock.
Cardiogenic shock accounts for the highest number of deaths in patients with acute myocardial infection (MI). However, the comforting fact is that with immediate attention, more than half of the people who develop this condition usually survive.
How does cardiogenic shock develop?
A severe heart attack prevents the heart from pumping. It draws the optimal amount of oxygenated blood from the body and causes cardiogenic shock.
In addition to a heart attack, some other conditions can decrease the heart’s pumping capacity and make a person prone to cardiogenic shock. These are:
- Myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscles
- Arrhythmias or irregular heartbeat / rhythm
- Pulmonary embolism, or obstruction of an artery in the lungs
- Endocarditis, or infection of the inner lining or valves of the heart
- Pericardial tamponade or too much fluid or blood around the heart
What are the most common signs and symptoms of cardiogenic shock?
- Severe breathlessness
- Weak pulse
- Sudden and rapid heartbeat
- Cold hands or feet
- Decreasing or stopping urination
- Rapid breathing
- Pale skin
- Loss of consciousness
- Low blood pressure
Since cardiogenic shock is the result of a severe heart attack, we should also be aware of the symptoms of a heart attack
- Squeezing pain in the center of the chest, or sensation of pressure or fullness that lasts for more than a few minutes
- Pain radiating to the shoulder, arms (individually or both), back or teeth and jaw
- Recurring episodes of chest pain
- Light-headedness or sudden dizziness
- Nausea and vomiting
How do doctors diagnose cardiogenic shock?
Several tests are done to confirm whether or not a person is in cardiogenic shock.
- Blood pressure test – It causes extremely low blood pressure
- Cardiac Catheterization – A thin and long tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery to check the amount of blood the heart pumps with each beat.
- Electrocardiogram (EKG) – a study of the electrical activity of the heart
- Echocardiogram or ultrasound of the heart
- Chest X-rays to check the fluid in the lungs and check for abnormalities in the heart
- Blood tests – To assess the damage (if any) to important organs such as the kidneys and liver from decreased oxygen supply
Who is More Prone to Cardiogenic Shock?
A patient with a heart attack is at greater risk of developing cardiogenic shock if he / she is
- Has a history of heart attack or heart failure
- Has blockages in the main arteries
- Has a history of diabetes or blood pressure
How can I prevent cardiogenic shock?
The best way to avoid cardiogenic shock is to avoid risk factors for a heart attack. The golden mantra keeps your heart healthy and blood pressure under control.
Some habits that can help us keep our hearts strong include:
- Avoid smoking (active as well as passive)
- Keep your body weight under control. Obesity is often associated with other heart attack risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Limit your intake of saturated fats and trans fats
- Limit your sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day.
- Avoid hidden sources of sodium like canned and processed foods
- Limit your sugar intake
- Limit your alcohol consumption to one or two drinks on the days you drink
- Exercise Regularly – 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, or a combination of both, can keep you and your heart healthy.
What to do if someone has symptoms of a heart attack or cardiogenic shock?
Rapid treatment for the heart attack can improve the chances of survival and reduce the effects of cardiogenic shock. The less time a person is in shock, the better the result with minimal damage to important organs. If you or someone you know has symptoms of a heart attack, call emergency services right away.
Dr. Dhananjay RS | Specialist – Cardiology – Adults, Cardiology – Pediatrics | SS Narayana Heart Center, Davangere
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