This condition is also called acute stress-induced cardiomyopathy, broken heart syndrome and apical ballooning syndrome.
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy was first reported in Japan in 1990. The word ’Takotsubo’ means ‘octopus pot’ in Japanese, as the left ventricle of the heart changes into a similar shape as the pot - developing a narrow neck and a round bottom.
The condition can develop at any age, but typically affects more women than men.
The good news is that often the condition is temporary and reversible.
What are the symptoms of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy?
The main symptoms of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy are chest pain, breathlessness or collapsing, similar to a heart attack. In some cases, people may also suffer palpitations, nausea and vomiting.
If you experience these symptoms or see the signs in other people and suspect they may be having a heart attack, phone 999 immediately.
How is Takotsubo cardiomyopathy diagnosed?
At the hospital you’ll have an ECG and a blood test. The doctor will want to know your full medical history and whether you’ve had any heart disease symptoms before. The ECG will show changes that are the usual signs of a heart attack, so you’ll need to have more tests to help rule this out first and give you the right diagnosis.
You will then have an angiogram - a test that looks inside the coronary arteries of your heart to see if there are any blockages. If you have Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, the angiogram will show that you don’t have any significant blockages related to your symptoms. However, it will show that your left ventricle has changed shape. This will help confirm your diagnosis.
You may also have an echocardiogram and a cardiac magnetic resonance (MRI) scan. These will show that your heart is enlarged to an abnormal shape and confirm your condition.
What causes Takotsubo cardiomyopathy?
The cause of this condition is unknown, but there are a number of theories. About 75 per cent of people diagnosed with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy have recently experienced either a significant emotional experience or physical stress.
Examples of a stressful event include bereavement or being involved in a natural disaster such as an earthquake. There have also been reports of people experiencing Takotsubo after a happy event such as a wedding, reunion or a new job. An example of a physical stress is recent surgery.
Treatment for Takotsubo cardiomyopathy
At the moment, there is no known medicine that has been shown to help when someone suddenly becomes unwell from Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or to prevent it occurring for a second time in a person.
In the early stages of diagnosis, you may receive treatment for a heart attack, including aspirin. Doctors will keep a close eye on you in a coronary care unit in hospital, where your heart will be monitored, usually for 24-48 hours. At this stage you may be given other medicines to help your heart muscle recover.
Your left ventricle will return to normal over a few days, weeks or months and you will usually be followed up with regular echocardiograms until this happens.
Unless you have another underlying heart problem, you won’t need any further medication or treatment in the long term. More research is needed to find out if Takotsubo cardiomyopathy can be inherited and passed down through a family.
What is the risk of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy re-occurring?
About 10-15 per cent of people who have had Takotsubo cardiomyopathy before will have another episode. For people affected for a second time, the stressful event can be completely different each time.
Where can I find more support?
If you've been diagnosed with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, you can connect with others, share stories and find support in the Takotsubo support Facebook group. This group is not monitored by the British Heart Foundation and should not replace the information and advice provided by your doctor.
Leading the fight against Takotsubo cardiomyopathy
The BHF is the largest independent funder of cardiovascular research in the UK.
Our research at Aberdeen University is helping us to better understand Takotsubo cardiomyopathy and is looking at why some people experience long term effects of the condition, while others don't.
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