- Takotsubo syndrome is a condition which affects the heart muscle, giving it a distinctive shape.
- It is thought to be brought on by extremely stressful events and affects how the heart works, hence it is sometimes referred to as 'stress' cardiomyopathy.
- It is usually a temporary condition, and once treated most people recover within a few weeks.
Many people seek medical help because it feels like they are having a heart attack. Most people are initially treated for a heart attack until tests can diagnose the true cause.
Typically symptoms start just after the stressful event and can include any of the following:
- Sudden, intense chest pain.
- Shortness of breath - caused by the heart not being able to pump properly.
- Abnormal heart rhythms - where the heart beats either too fast or too slow, or may beat irregularly.
This condition is usually diagnosed when:
- The heart muscle is found to be weakened
- The cause is shown to not be a heart attack
- The heart has the typical Takotsubo shape and;
- When any other conditions that could explain the symptoms have been ruled-out.
Usually several tests are done in hospital to confirm the diagnosis, these can include:
- ECG (electrocardiogram) - to look at electrical impulses in the heart. The changes on the ECG in Takotsubo syndrome may look very similar to those seen during a heart attack.
- Blood test - to look for chemicals in the blood that show the heart muscle is damaged.
- Echo (echocardiogram) -to look at the function, shape and size of the heart.
Although the heart usually recovers, symptoms and any heart abnormalities need to be treated to avoid complications and help the heart recover. Treatment may include the following:
- Chest pain - because Takotsubo has similar symptoms to a heart attack; many people will receive treatment for a heart attack (until doctors can be sure it is not a heart attack).
- Breathlessness - this is caused by a build-up of fluid on the lungs because the heart isn’t able to pump blood around the body. This is usually treated with medication that helps to reduce fluid build-up.
- Reduced pumping ability of the heart- medications such as ACE inhibitors may be prescribed to help the heart to recover.