Have you heard about Broken Heart Syndrome?

26 September 2023
The Wesley Hospital staff member assisting older lady walking on crutches.

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known as "Broken Heart Syndrome" is a temporary heart condition that occurs in response to intense emotional or physical experiences.

It is characterised by a sudden weakening or stunning of the heart muscle, which affects its ability to pump blood effectively.

We spoke to Interventional Cardiologist, Dr Stephen Cox, to shed light on this condition and its implications.

According to Dr Cox, the name "Takotsubo" is derived from the appearance of the heart's main pumping chamber during an episode of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

“It resembles a Tako-Tsubo pot, a Japanese fishing pot used to catch octopus. This unique characteristic gives the condition its distinctive name,” he said.

“Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is commonly triggered by severe emotional or physical stressors, such as a serious accident, an unexpected loss, or even a sudden illness.

“These emotional triggers have earned the condition its nickname, "broken heart syndrome."

Dr Cox explains the signs and symptoms of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy include sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting.

“These symptoms often arise after a period of severe stress and can present as a heart attack,” he said.

“Therefore, if people do experience any of these symptoms they should treat it as a heart attack and seek immediate medical attention.

“However, the most notable difference in individuals with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is they do not have blockages in their coronary arteries, which distinguishes it from a heart attack.”

The primary treatment for Takotsubo cardiomyopathy involves medication to reduce stress on the heart and aid in the recovery of heart muscle function.

The good news is this is typically a short-term treatment, and most individuals fully recover within two months.

Dr Cox says regular follow-ups with echocardiograms may be necessary to monitor the heart's recovery and in addition to medical treatment, it is essential to manage any physical or emotional stress that may have triggered the condition.

“This can be achieved through consultation with a doctor or cardiac rehabilitation team,” he said.

Cardiac rehabilitation programs such as the one here at The Wesley can provide valuable guidance on staying healthy, managing the condition with confidence, and reducing the likelihood of recurrence.”

Patient Valda recently experienced Takotsubo cardiomyopathy and initially dismissed her symptoms of chest pain and breathlessness.

“Originally, I thought I had asthma and my GP put me on Ventolin, however I went back a few days later and they performed an ECG on my heart,” she said.

“They thought I was having a heart attack and immediately called an ambulance and I was taken to the Wesley Hospital Coronary Care Ward.”

Valda's experience highlights the importance of seeking medical attention in the face of concerning symptoms.

Although her arteries were clear and she was otherwise healthy, Valda required a period of rest in the hospital before returning home.

Now, by sharing her story, Valda hopes to raise awareness of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy and help others.

“In hindsight I should have called an ambulance sooner, I think it is very important that people prioritise their health and seek medical attention when they think something may be wrong.”

Media Enquiries
General: wesley.media@uchealth.com.au
Urgent or after hours: 0412 674 013

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