Broken hearts don't self-heal

June 16, 2017 by Robert Turbyne, University of Aberdeen
Broken hearts don't self-heal
Takotsubo syndrome - also known as broken heart syndrome - affects around 3,000 people in the UK each year. Credit: University of Aberdeen

A condition once thought to temporarily cause heart failure in people who experience severe stress might actually cause longer-lasting damage to the heart muscle.

Takotsubo syndrome, also called "broken heart syndrome"—because it can be triggered when a person suffers severe emotional stress, such as after bereavement—affects around 3,000 people in the UK each year.

In a study funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and published in the Journal of the American Society of Echocardiography, researchers from the University of Aberdeen followed 52 takotsubo patients over the course of four months.

Using ultrasound and cardiac MRI scans to look at how the patients' hearts were functioning in minute detail, the researchers found that the disease had permanently affected the heart's pumping motion. The twisting or 'wringing' motion made by the heart during the heartbeat was delayed and the heart's squeezing movement was reduced.

The researchers also found that parts of the heart's muscle are replaced by fine scars, which reduce the elasticity of the heart and prevent it from contracting properly.

These findings may help to explain why takotsubo sufferers have similar long-term survival rates to people who've had a heart attack.

Dr Dana Dawson, Reader in Cardiovascular Medicine and BHF-funded researcher at the University of Aberdeen, who led the research, said:

"We used to think that people who suffered from takotsubo cardiomyopathy would fully recover, without medical intervention. Here we've shown that this disease has much longer lasting damaging effects on the hearts of those who suffer from it.

"Recent studies have shown that this disease is not as rare as we thought, so finding out the effect that it has on sufferers' hearts is increasingly important."

Professor Metin Avkiran, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said:

"This study has shown that in some patients who develop Takotsubo syndrome various aspects of function remain abnormal for up to 4 months afterwards. Worryingly, these patients' hearts appear to show a form of scarring, indicating that full recovery may take much longer, or indeed may not occur, with current care.

"This highlights the need to urgently find new and more effective treatments for this devastating condition."

Explore further: 'Broken heart syndrome' protects the heart from adrenaline overload

Related Stories

'Broken heart syndrome' protects the heart from adrenaline overload

June 27, 2012
A condition that temporarily causes heart failure in people who experience severe stress might actually protect the heart from very high levels of adrenaline, according to a new study published in the journal Circulation. ...

Some heart attack patients may not benefit from beta blockers

May 29, 2017
New research challenges established medical practice that all heart attack patients should be on beta blockers.

Researchers study mysterious acute stress induced cardiomyopathy

February 12, 2016
The long-term effects of an untreatable condition, often confused with a heart attack, will be explored by University of Aberdeen researchers after they were awarded a prestigious grant.

'Broken heart syndrome' is real medical diagnosis

February 23, 2017
The sudden loss of a job, divorce, or the death of a loved one or even a family pet are things that cause us to experience overwhelming emotions. The term "broken-hearted" is often used to describe these reactions, but it's ...

Happiness can break your heart too

March 3, 2016
Happy events can trigger a heart condition known as takotsubo syndrome, according to research published today (Thursday) in the European Heart Journal .

Bleeding hearts predict future heart failure

June 9, 2016
The amount a heart 'bleeds' following a heart attack can predict the severity of future heart failure, according to research presented today by a University of Glasgow academic at the British Cardiovascular Conference, in ...

Recommended for you

A wearable device intervention to increase exercise in peripheral artery disease

April 24, 2018
A home-based exercise program, consisting of wearable devices and telephone coaching, did not improve walking ability for patients with peripheral artery disease, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study.

Heart disease may only be a matter of time for those with healthy obesity

April 24, 2018
People who are 30 pounds or more overweight may want to slim down a bit even if they don't have high blood pressure or any other heart disease risk, according to scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Women at greater risk of stress-induced ischemia after heart attacks

April 24, 2018
Women who've previously experienced a heart attack have twice the risk of later myocardial ischemia provoked by mental stress when compared to men with a similar history, according to a study published in Circulation.

Electric cars don't jolt implanted heart devices: study

April 24, 2018
(HealthDay)—People who have implanted devices to keep their hearts running smoothly can safely drive an electric car if they wish to do so, new research confirms.

Hippo pathway found essential to orchestrate the development of the heart

April 23, 2018
Using a technology that provides a 'high-resolution view' of the status of individual cells, a team of researchers has gained new insights into the embryonic development of the mouse heart. They discovered that during development, ...

Compound improves stroke outcome by reducing lingering inflammation

April 20, 2018
An experimental compound appears to improve stroke outcome by reducing the destructive inflammation that can continue months after a stroke, scientists report.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.