The left ventricle is the main blood-pumping chamber of your heart. When the heart muscle in this chamber squeezes, oxygen-rich blood is pumped out of the heart to supply the organs and tissues of your body.
In takotsubo cardiomyopathy (TC), part of the left ventricle temporarily changes shape and becomes larger, often in response to intense emotional or physical stress. When this happens, it’s harder for your heart to pump blood effectively.
The condition was first described in 1990 and gets its name from a type of Japanese octopus trap (takotsubo). The shape of the left ventricle in people with this type of cardiomyopathy appears similar to these traps.
You may also see TC referred to as:
- broken heart syndrome
- stress cardiomyopathy
- apical ballooning syndrome
We don’t know the true number of cases of TC. It’s estimated to happen in
- the death of a loved one
- financial loss
- a severe illness
- a recent surgery
- an accident or serious physical injury
- physical assault or domestic abuse
- natural disasters
- the COVID-19 pandemic
The exact physical mechanism behind TC isn’t known. One theory is that stress causes the release of large amounts of hormones like adrenaline, which then disrupt the function of the left ventricle.
Some other symptoms that people with TC may experience are:
Is takotsubo cardiomyopathy a kind of heart attack?
The symptoms of TC closely resemble those of a heart attack. In fact, many people with this condition are initially thought to be having a heart attack.
However, despite having similar symptoms, the mechanisms behind these two conditions are different.
TC happens when the left ventricle changes its shape and becomes larger, typically in response to stress. A heart attack happens when blood flow to a part of the heart has been cut off, often due to the effects of heart disease.
The diagnosis of TC involves ruling out heart attack and other heart conditions. While a doctor takes your medical history, they may ask if you’ve gone through an intense period of stress lately.
Some of the tests that doctors may use are:
- electrocardiogram (EKG), a test that measures the electrical activity in your heart
- echocardiogram, a type of ultrasound that lets your doctor view the structure of your heart, including its valves and chambers
- blood tests for things like troponin, BNP, and creatine kinase, which may be elevated with some heart conditions
- heart MRI scan, which can also give your doctor a more detailed view of your heart’s structure
- angiogram, a procedure that combines the use of X-rays and a special dye from a catheter threaded to your heart to show blood flow through your heart’s blood vessels
Imaging tests can show the changes in structure that happen with TC. Additionally, an angiogram can help rule out a blockage of blood flow in the heart as the cause of your symptoms.
However, a doctor may prescribe some medications to help you with recovery. These can include:
- heart medications like beta-blockers, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, or angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) to help lower the strain on your heart
- diuretics, which can help decrease any fluid buildup around your heart
- blood thinners, which can reduce your risk of developing a serious blood clot
There are several potential complications of TC. Some can be potentially serious and may include:
- arrhythmias, which is when your heart beats too fast, too slow, or irregularly
- serious blood clots
- acute heart failure, which is when your heart suddenly becomes less effective at pumping blood
- cardiogenic shock, a life threatening condition in
up to 5 to 10 percentof people with TC, where your heart cannot supply your organs and tissues with enough oxygen-rich blood
Now let’s answer some of the remaining questions you may have about TC.
Can you die from takotsubo cardiomyopathy?
How long does it take to heal from takotsubo cardiomyopathy?
Most people recover completely from TC. It’s estimated that about 95 percent of people with TC will have full heart function within several weeks.
Can anxiety cause takotsubo cardiomyopathy?
Since TC can be brought on by intense emotional stress, it’s possible for anxiety to lead to an episode.
Is takotsubo cardiomyopathy permanent?
Many people who have TC won’t have another episode. However, recurrences can happen weeks or even years later. It’s estimated that about 5 percent of people with TC will have a recurrence.
Can takotsubo cardiomyopathy be prevented?
There’s no definite way to prevent TC. However, some things may help.
If you have chronic (long-term) stress, a doctor may recommend finding effective ways to reduce your stress levels. They may also suggest managing any underlying mental health conditions like anxiety.
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is a heart condition where your left ventricle temporarily changes its shape and gets larger. It’s typically brought on by severe physical or emotional stress.
The symptoms of TC closely resemble those of a heart attack. Because of this, diagnosis involves ruling out a heart attack or other heart conditions as the cause of your symptoms.
There’s no standard treatment for TC, although doctors may prescribe medications to help with recovery. Although complications can happen, most people regain full heart function and recurrences are rare.