Takotsubo cardiomyopathy

This is a thermal imaging scan.

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (also known as Takotsubo syndrome) is a temporary condition where your heart muscle becomes suddenly weakened or ‘stunned’.

The left ventricle, one of the heart’s chambers, changes shape.

This condition is also called acute stress cardiomyopathy, broken heart syndrome and apical ballooning syndrome. 

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy was first reported in Japan. The word Takotsubo means ‘octopus pot’ in Japanese, as the left ventricle changes into a similar shape - developing a narrow neck and a round bottom.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy are chest pains and breathlessness, similar to a heart attack. You should always phone 999 immediately if you experience these symptoms or see the signs in other people. 

How is it diagnosed?

When you go to the hospital you will have an ECG and blood test. This will show changes that are the usual signs of a heart attack.

You will then undergo an angiogram test - a procedure which looks inside your coronary arteries to see if there are any blockages. If you have Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, the angiogram won’t find any blockages but it will show that your left ventricle has changed shape, which will confirm the diagnosis.

What causes Takotsubo cardiomyopathy?

The cause of this condition has not been confirmed but there are a number of theories. About three quarters of people diagnosed with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy have experienced significant emotional or physical stress prior to becoming unwell.

Examples include bereavement, major surgery, or being involved in a disaster such as an earthquake. There is some evidence that the excessive release of hormones - in particular adrenaline - during these periods of stress causes the stunning of the heart muscle.

The good news is that the condition is temporary and reversible – and it’s unusual for it to happen again.

Treatment for Takotsubo cardiomyopathy

There is no specific treatment available for Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, although often you may receive treatments for a heart attack, such as aspirin, in the early stages. Your left ventricle will return to normal over a few days or weeks and you will usually be followed up with regular echocardiograms until this happens.

If you are found to be at high risk of a heart attack you may be prescribed medication to try and reduce this risk, but otherwise you will not need any further medication or treatment. Unlike other types of cardiomyopathy, Takotsubo cardiomyopathy cannot be inherited. 

Researching the cause of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy

Your donations help us fund researchers like those at the Imperial College London, who have already made a breakthrough in our understanding of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. They're all fighting to help heart patients: finding new, better treatments for people with heart and circulatory disease, and developing new ways to better prevent or diagnose it.

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