• What Is Broken Heart Syndrome (or Takotsubo Syndrome)?

    (A) Schematic representation of takotsubo cardiomyopathy
    (B) Compared to the situation in a normal
    person (B)
    The Japanese octopus traps after which Takotsubo Syndrome is named.

    There is something behind the folk idea of a broken heart. Occasionally, a person may arrive in the emergency room with the symptoms of a heart attack, including the presence of cardiac enzymes in the blood that indicate damage to the heart muscle, as well as abnormalities on an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG).

    However, no blockages will be discovered in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Instead, in these patients, the heart’s main pumping chamber (the left ventricle) contracts in an unusual pattern. With contraction, this ventricle will be shaped like a fishing pot used to trap octopuses, the tako-tsubo pot. (Japanese physicians who were the first to identify the syndrome.) In other words, the bottom of the heart does not squeeze well (akin to the base of the pot) while the top part of the heart does squeeze well (akin to the neck of the pot).

    While takotsubo syndrome is not well understood, researchers think the left ventricle may be “stunned” and unable to function because of a surge of stress hormones after the patient experiences a severe emotional or physical trauma, such as a death of a loved one or an automobile accident. The syndrome usually resolves quickly and without lasting damage to the heart, but it can, in very rare cases, be fatal. If you experience signs of a heart attack, dial 911 right away.

    Learn more about heart attack here. 

    To learn more about Broken Heart Syndrome, click here.