Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy

(Broken Heart Syndrome)


A person experiencing takotsubo cardiomyopathy may arrive in the emergency room with heart attack symptoms, including the presence of cardiac enzymes in the blood that indicate damage to the heart muscle as well as abnormalities on an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). However, unlike a heart attack, no blockages will be discovered in the arteries that supply blood to the heart, and the main pumping chamber of the heart (the left ventricle) will have an unusual and distinctive shape. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is never suspected of causing blockages, but it's frequently confused with someone having a heart attack, as the changes on the ECG can be identical.

An illustration of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, showing the left ventricle's shape.

Japanese physicians first described Broken heart syndrome in the 1990s, who observed that certain patients with heart attack-like symptoms had a left ventricle shaped like a fishing pot used to trap octopuses, the takotsubo pot. You may hear the condition described as Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy.

Although Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy occurs in men* and women*, it’s most common in post-menopausal women. Sometimes, Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy can be traced to an emotional or physical cause; other times, the cause is never known. Researchers believe it can be triggered by stress as varied as a catastrophic medical diagnosis, an acute medical illness, the death of a relative, a serious car accident, or a devastating financial loss. While the syndrome is poorly understood, researchers think the left ventricle may be “stunned” and unable to function because of a surge of stress hormones after the patient experiences trauma.

The syndrome usually resolves quickly and without lasting damage to the heart, but it can be fatal in rare cases. If you experience signs of a heart attack, dial 911 right away.

Black female doctor showing digital tablet to senior patient

Women's Cardiovascular Health

It's important for women to learn about their cardiovascular health, as women overall seem to have poorer outcomes from heart disease treatment than men.

*The term “men” in the context of “cardiovascular health” applies to individuals assigned male at birth (AMAB) who have a male biological reproductive system, which includes a penis, scrotum, testes, epididymis, vas deferens, prostate, and seminal vesicles.

*The term “women” in the context of “women’s cardiovascular health” applies to individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB) who have a female biological reproductive system, which includes a vagina, uterus, ovaries, Fallopian tubes, accessory glands, and external genital organs.