This Valentine’s Day as you look to buy a thoughtful gift such as a giant heart-shaped box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers, try remembering your first love. Remember the simplicity of it—the awkward flirting, the first time you held hands, your first kiss, and the inevitable first breakup. Now think back to the aftermath, as you wistfully sought to recover. Breakup songs took on new meaning, letters were left half-written, and in your teenaged mind, you felt like you would never recover—or worse.
A broken heart can, in fact, kill. The condition is known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy (TCM), or “broken heart syndrome” and it is often misdiagnosed as a heart attack. In most cases, takotsubo cardiomyopathy is temporary and people rapidly recover without long-term heart damage.
Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy Quick Facts:
- First described in 1990 in Japan and later in the US in 1998
- ~90% of cases are women between 58-75 years of age
- Symptoms are indistinguishable from those of a heart attack
- Triggered by emotional or physical stress
- Comorbidities increase the risk of death
- Males have a higher risk of death
- An echocardiogram confirms TCM (ballooning left ventricle)
An Enlightening TCM Case
In 2007, a 42-year-old woman suffering from intense chest pains was rushed to the emergency department. She presented with a rapid heartbeat and shallow quick breaths. Laboratory tests revealed extremely high levels of heart proteins and creatine, pointing to muscle damage from an apparent heart attack. Upon further investigation, however, it was revealed that her arteries were clear.
Her symptoms began after finding out one of her sons had died in a car accident and her other son was in critical condition. An echocardiogram revealed the trademark left ventricle ballooning associated with TCM. After a few days her condition improved.
In recent years there have been exciting advancements in echocardiology, including from Bracco Diagnostics, Inc., a client of REALITYRx. The Bracco team created LUMASON®, a contrast medium for use in adult patients with suboptimal echocardiograms. This advanced imaging technique uses microbubbles to enhance image quality, providing sonographers with a clearer picture of the heart and any left ventricle abnormalities.
With the proper diagnostic tools, conditions such as TCM can be easily diagnosed and treated. Luckily for those suffering from a “broken heart”, TCM can be treated with standard medication and patients fully recover in about two months.
Echocardiogram of the heart