Heart rhythm changes key in diagnosing takotsubo cardiomyopathy

27th July 2015

Researchers have been looking at ways to help doctors diagnose stress-related cardiomyopathy, called takotsubo cardiomyopathy or broken heart syndrome.

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy can mimic a heart attack, and sometimes patients with this type of cardiomyopathy are thought to be suffering the effects of a heart attack.  Yet how patients need to be cared for are different.

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy appears to be triggered by an episode of major stress such as bereavement, being involved in an accident or divorce. The condition causes temporary enlargement and weakening of the heart muscle. In most cases it is reversible.

The researchers, from the department of cardiology at the Middlemore Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand, found that ECG changes in those with takotsubo cardiomyopathy were different to those who had had a heart attack.

The team looked at 100 consecutive patients with takotsubo cardiomyopathy and 100 heart attack patients.

The concluded that ECG changes seen in takotsubo cardiomyopathy within two days of patients coming to the hospital are distinctive and important clues for clinicians to suspect the diagnosis.

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy was first described in Japan in the 1990s. It gets its name from the similarity of the abnormal shape of the heart to a Japanese octopus fishing pot (tako-octopus, tsubo-pot).

More information about takotsubo cardiomyopathy and the study.