Last year, I was “assigned” to appear in a TV show called Pinoy MD to talk about arrhythmia and “broken heart syndrome”. The show is hosted by Dr. Raul Quillamor and Connie Sison, both of whom I was not given the privilege to meet face to face. It was an interesting experience as it made me realize just how difficult it is to communicate medical information sometimes.
Broken Heart Syndrome (for non-medical folks)
Broken heart syndrome is an illness that presents like a heart attack. The victim will feel the symptoms of a heart attack: sudden chest discomfort and shortness of breath, for example. It is usually triggered by profound stress like bereavement. It usually effects post-menopausal women.
Tests will reveal several things: 1) the absence of significant coronary artery disease, 2) weakness of the contraction of the heart. Because of the weak parts of the contracting heart is distributed in a particular pattern, the heart will look like a Japanese octopus trap or takotsubo (see pictures). This is the reason why is also called Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy.
Example of a ventriculography showing the abnormal shape of the heart in Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. Example from Wikimedia user Stevenfruitsmaak: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Takotsubo_ventriculography.gif
Picture of a Japanese octupus trap. From a case report of Taskotsubo cardiomyopathy by Helena Bedanova, Marek Orban, and Petr Nemec. Postoperative left ventricular apical ballooning: Transient Takotsubo cardiomyopathy following orthotopic liver transplantation. Am J Case Rep. 2013; 14: 494–497.
Most of patients with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy will recover normal heart function. While it usually takes days to several weeks, recovery sometimes takes months.