What are the causes of Cardiogenic Shock?

Updated at: Jan 15, 2013
What are the causes of Cardiogenic Shock?

It is important to know what causes Cardiogenic Shock. Cardiogenic shock happens if the heart suddenly can't pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body. Read further to know the details.

Editorial Team
Heart HealthWritten by: Editorial TeamPublished at: Jan 06, 2013

Immediate Causes

Cardiogenic shock happens if the heart suddenly can't pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body.

This mostly occurs if the heart’s lower left chamber, the left ventricle (VEN-trih-kul), suddenly stops working because an ongoing heart attack prevents the heart muscle from getting enough oxygen-rich blood. As a result, the weakened heart muscle can't pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body.

In about 3 percent of cardiogenic shock cases, the heart’s lower right chamber, the right ventricle, isn't working. This means the heart can't effectively pump blood to the lungs, where it picks up oxygen to bring back to the heart and the rest of the body.

Without enough oxygen-rich blood reaching the body’s major organs, a number of complications can occur. For example:

  •     Cardiogenic shock may result in death if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the organs isn't quickly restored. This is why emergency medical treatment is required.
  •     When organs don't get enough oxygen-rich blood, they stop working properly. Cells in the organs die, and the organs may never work right again.
  •     As some organs stop working, they may cause problems with other bodily functions. This, in turn, can worsen shock. For example:
  •     When the kidneys aren't working right, the levels of important chemicals in the body change. This may cause the heart and other muscles to become even weaker, limiting blood flow even more.
  •     When the liver isn't working right, the body stops making proteins that cause the blood to clot. This can lead to more bleeding if the shock is due to blood loss.

How well the brain, kidneys, and other organs recover will depend on how long a person is in shock. The less time a person is in shock, the less damage will occur to his or her organs. This is another reason why it's so important to get emergency treatment right away.


Underlying Causes

The underlying causes of cardiogenic shock are conditions that weaken the heart and prevent it from pumping enough oxygen-rich blood to the body.

Heart Attack

Most heart attacks occur as a result of coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease. CHD is a condition in which a fatty substance called plaque (plak) narrows or blocks the coronary (heart) arteries.

Plaque reduces blood flow to your heart muscle. It also makes it more likely that blood clots will form in your arteries. Blood clots can partially or completely block blood flow.

Conditions Caused by Heart Attack

Heart attacks can cause some serious heart conditions that can lead to cardiogenic shock.


Examples include:

  •     Ventricular septal rupture - This condition occurs if the wall that separates the ventricles (the heart’s two lower chambers) breaks down. This occurs because cells in part of the wall have died due to a heart attack. If the ventricles aren't separated by the wall, they can't pump properly.
  •     Papillary muscle infarction or rupture - This condition occurs if the muscles that help anchor the heart valves stop working or break because their blood supply is cut off due to a heart attack. If this happens, blood doesn't flow correctly between the different chambers of the heart. This prevents the heart from pumping properly.

Other Heart Conditions

Serious heart conditions that may occur with or without a heart attack can cause cardiogenic shock. Examples include:

  •     Myocarditis (MI-o-kar-DI-tis) - This is inflammation of the heart muscle.
  •     Endocarditis (EN-do-kar-DI-tis) - This is an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves.
  •     Life-threatening arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs) - These are problems with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat.
  •     Pericardial tamponade (per-ih-KAR-de-al tam-po-NADE) - This is too much fluid or blood around the heart. The fluid squeezes the heart muscle so it can't pump properly.

Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a sudden blockage in a lung artery. This condition usually is due to a blood clot that traveled to the lung from a vein in the leg. PE can damage your heart and other organs in your body.


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