Eighteen patients in whom shock developed after acute myocardial infarction are described. There was electrocardiographic evidence of acute inferior infarction in 11, of inferolateral infarction in three, and of anteroseptal infarction in four. In all cases the right atrial pressure was the same as or exceeded the end expiratory pulmonary artery wedge pressure. Plasma volume expansion of 100-2500 ml was needed to produce an optimum pulmonary artery wedge pressure. Eleven patients needed additional inotropic support with dopamine. Despite the absence of a critical increase in pulmonary artery wedge pressure, potential or actual hypoxia was almost always present. Six patients needed endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation because they had severe hypoxia that was unresponsive to supplemental inspired oxygen. Life threatening arrhythmias were also common (ventricular fibrillation in seven patients and complete heart block in four). Five patients died. All surviving patients are well and only one requires treatment for heart failure.
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