Takotsubo cardiomyopathy

An image of a heart from a person with Takotsubo cardiomopathy

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known as takotsubo syndrome, is a condition where your heart muscle becomes suddenly weakened.

The left ventricle, one of the heart’s chambers, gets larger and changes shape. This means this part of the heart doesn’t pump blood to the rest of the body as well as it should. 

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. Unlike other cardiomyopathies, like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), it isn’t an inherited heart condition.

What are the symptoms of takotsubo cardiomyopathy?

Initial symptoms often feel like a heart attack:

  • chest pain
  • breathlessness
  • collapse.

If you’re worried you, or someone else, are having a heart attack you should call 999 immediately.

Some people may have symptoms such as:

What causes takotsubo cardiomyopathy?

Although the cause of takotsubo cardiomyopathy is not yet known, in many cases, it’s brought on by emotional or physical distress. Examples include:

  • bereavement
  • domestic abuse
  • physical assault
  • acute illness
  • recent surgery
  • an asthma attack
  • financial worries or debt
  • being involved in a disaster, such as an earthquake or terrorist incident.

There have also been reports of people experiencing takotsubo after a happy event such as a wedding, reunion or a new job. Some people won’t have, or be able to identify, a specific event that caused the condition.

How is takotsubo cardiomyopathy diagnosed?

At hospital you’ll have:

  • an ECG 
  • a blood test
  • the doctor will take your full medical history and ask whether you’ve had any heart symptoms before. 

An ECG will usually show signs of a heart attack, so you’ll have an angiogram. This looks inside your heart’s coronary arteries to see if there are any blockages. If you have takotsubo cardiomyopathy, the angiogram will show that your symptoms have been caused by the left ventricle of your heart changing shape.

You may also have:

Treatment for takotsubo cardiomyopathy

Unfortunately, there’s currently no treatment for takotsubo cardiomyopathy or preventing further symptoms in the future.

You may be admitted to hospital for a day or two where your symptoms will be monitored. Doctors may also give you some medication, such as beta blockers, to help your heart recover.

When will I recover?

For many people with takotsubo, your heart will begin to return to normal, and you’ll start to recover, within a couple of days, although it may take weeks or months. However, some people’s heart will permanently change shape and they may continue to experience symptoms such as tiredness, chest pain and lack of energy.

You’ll be asked to come back for regular echocardiograms to see how you’re recovering.

Find out more about Dawn's recovery from takotsubo.

Will takotsubo cardiomyopathy come back?

About 10-15 per cent of people who’ve had takotsubo cardiomyopathy can have it again after they’ve recovered. For people affected again, the trigger can be completely different each time.

Where can I find more support

If you've been diagnosed with takotsubo cardiomyopathy, it can be very helpful to talk to a counsellor about the trigger and impact of takotsubo cardiomyopathy. You can also connect with other people who have the condition, 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.

  • To talk to a cardiac nurse, call our Heart Helpline on 0300 330 3311 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).
  • Join our online community platform, HealthUnlocked and talk to people who have been through similar experiences.

Beat heartbreak from Takotsubo cardiomyopathy

The BHF is the largest independent funder of cardiovascular research in the UK. Our research projects at Aberdeen University are helping us to understand takotsubo cardiomyopathy by:

  • looking at why some people experience long term effects of the condition, while others don't
  • looking at mechanisms of the disease in the heart muscle
  • possible therapies that might be available in the future.

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