Broken Heart Syndrome May be Sudden Killer of More People Than Assumed
Stress cardiomyopathy often associated with older women who suddenly fall dead after loss of a loved one; new study says
this is problem for younger people and men, too - videos below story
July 19, 2011
– For generations we have just said people who collapsed and died soon after a severe personal loss just died of a “broken heart.” The cause
was probably stress cardiomyopathy, which is now often referred to as “broken heart syndrome.” New Research, however, indicates this acute
heart failure triggered by stressful events is more common than thought and includes younger people, men and even some without an identifiable
Stress cardiomyopathy (SC) has been known to primarily affect postmenopausal women and is characterized by acute,
profound, but reversible left ventricular (LV) dysfunction in the absence of significant coronary artery disease, according to the study
published in the July 20 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
"Various aspects of its clinical profile have been described in small single-center populations, but larger, multicenter
data sets have been lacking so far. Furthermore, it remains difficult to quickly establish diagnosis on admission," according to the report.
Ingo Eitel, M.D., of the University of Leipzig, Germany, and colleagues conducted a study to comprehensively define the
clinical spectrum of SC and to examine the usefulness of a set of cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) criteria that might aid in
diagnostic decision making in suspected SC.
The study was conducted at 7 tertiary care centers in Europe and North America between January 2005 and October 2010
among 256 patients with SC assessed at the time of presentation at the centers as well as 1 to 6 months after the acute event.
Patients with SC were an average age of 69 years old:
89% (227) were women -
81% of patients (207) were postmenopausal women,
8% (20 women) were 50 years of age or younger;
11% of cases were men.
In 71 percent of patients (182), a significant stressful event less than 48 hours before presentation could be
identified; triggering conditions were emotional stress in 30 percent of patients, and physical stress in 41 percent.
Upon arrival at the care center, electrocardiograms (ECGs) showed abnormalities in 87 percent of patients. Coronary
angiography showed healthy coronary arteries in 193 patients (75 percent). CMR imaging detected ballooning patterns - a certain appearance of
the heart muscle - with moderate to severe reduction of LV function in all patients and four distinct patterns of regional ventricular
"Stress cardiomyopathy was accurately identified by CMR using specific criteria: a typical pattern of LV dysfunction,
myocardial edema (swelling), absence of significant necrosis [cell or tissue death]/fibrosis [formation of excess fibrous connective tissue],
and markers for myocardial inflammation.
About Broken Heart Syndrome (stress cardiomyopathy, takotsubo
heart syndrome is a temporary heart condition brought on by stressful situations, such as the death of a loved one. People with broken
heart syndrome may have sudden chest pain or think they're having a heart attack. These broken heart syndrome symptoms may be brought
on by the heart's reaction to a surge of stress hormones. In broken heart syndrome, a part of your heart temporarily enlarges and
doesn't pump well, while the remainder of the heart functions normally or with even more forceful contractions.
The condition was originally called takotsubo cardiomyopathy.
Today, it's also referred to as stress cardiomyopathy, stress-induced cardiomyopathy or apical
The symptoms of broken heart syndrome are treatable, and the condition usually reverses itself
in about a week.
Follow-up CMR imaging showed complete normalization of LV ejection fraction [a measure of how well the left ventricle of
the heart pumps with each contraction] and inflammatory markers in the absence of significant fibrosis in all patients," the authors write.
The researchers note that their data indicate that only two-thirds of patients had a clearly identifiable preceding
stressor, whereas in previous reports the percentage with preceding emotional or physical triggers was as high as 89 percent.
"Thus, our large multi-center cohort demonstrates that the absence of an identifiable stressful event does not rule out
the diagnosis, and, hence, precipitating mechanisms may be more complex, such as involvement of vascular, endocrine, and central nervous
“Such clinical heterogeneity could contribute to ambiguity in the recognition of SC and thereby affect potential
management strategies. Consequently, enhanced awareness and recognition of a broad clinical profile of SC as demonstrated in the current study
is mandatory for correct diagnosis and treatment among patients with suspected SC."
The authors add that CMR imaging may provide incremental diagnostic information and could allow for verifying all
relevant functional and tissue changes and therefore might contribute to the establishment of or rule out the diagnosis of SC at the time of
acute clinical presentation.
"The combination of typical regional wall motion abnormalities, the presence of reversible myocardial injury, and the
absence of significant irreversible tissue injury may serve as a very useful set of diagnostic criteria and should be prospectively tested."
Broken Heart Syndrome (Stress Cardiomyopathy): What is This? Dr. Atiemo
About Broken Heart Syndrome (Penn State Hershey)
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