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A new research says you can actually die from a broken heart and sheds light on "broken heart syndrome.

Broken heart syndrome is medically known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy and was first described by Japanese researchers in the early 1990s. However, to a large number of people from the medical community, it is still a mystery.

Symptoms of the syndrome mimic a heart attack and usually follow exposure to an intense physical or emotional event. It is believed that these symptoms are brought on by the heart's reaction to a surge of stress hormones, like adrenaline, causing a part of the heart to temporarily weaken or become stunned (cardiomyopathy).

Although the exact mechanism is not known, it appears that broken heart syndrome is temporary and completely reversible.

Researchers from the Miriam Hospital may shed some light on the clinical characteristics and outcomes of this relatively rare, life-threatening condition. In their study, they created a registry of 70 patients with the syndrome. Two-thirds of the patients - almost all post-menopausal women - had experienced a very stressful physical or emotional event just before arriving at the hospital with heart attack-like symptoms.
Twenty percent were critically ill and required emergency treatment to keep them alive, but all patients survived the first 48 hours and experienced a full and complete recovery.

It can be difficult for cardiologists and emergency room physicians to diagnose and manage patients with broken heart syndrome because all arrive with heart attack-like symptoms, including chest pain and shortness of breath. Because of these similarities, patients underwent emergency cardiac catheterization. Approximately 67 % of patients had been exposed to some sort of physical or emotional distress - such as bad news about a family member, a domestic argument, severe physical illness or a car accident - just before the onset of symptoms. All were eventually diagnosed with broken heart syndrome during their hospital stay.

Researchers identified a wide spectrum of disease severity among patients in the registry. Six patients presented with cardiogenic shock and three patients experienced sustained ventricular arrhythmias, requiring emergency defibrillation or cardioversion. Overall, the majority of those in the registry were prescribed aspirin, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors and statins during their hospitalization, consistent with treatment protocol for patients with acute coronary syndrome.

Similarly, most patients left the hospital on a cardiac regimen very similar to that prescribed for heart attack patients.

Broken heart syndrome appears to be rarely fatal as long as patients are fully supported with medications, respirators and other critical devices in the first 48 hours.

The researchers hope that the newest data will help them better understand the disease process and play a major role in developing and tailoring more effective short and long-term treatment strategies.


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