Jefferson University Hospitals

Broken Heart Syndrome

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You may have heard a family member or friend say that they'll die from a "broken heart," or that heartache from the loss of a loved one is too much for them to bear. The truth is, severe stress can cause an actual condition known as broken heart syndrome (BHS), or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Patients experiencing BHS often have similar symptoms as those having a heart attack, such as chest pain and shortness of breath. That's why it's important to visit a hospital with physicians who are experienced with this problem.

At the Jefferson Health Heart Institute, our cardiologists can properly diagnose and assess broken heart syndrome to provide you with the right treatment.

Broken heart syndrome is a condition that mimics acute coronary syndrome. It often occurs in postmenopausal women, older men or after a severe emotional stress. BHS is not a heart attack that results from a blockage of a heart artery. It is sudden weakness of the heart muscle that may be induced by a surge in adrenalin and other stress hormones that shock the heart.

In order to properly diagnose the condition, you would need a cardiac catheterization. In a true heart attack, the catheterization would reveal one of the coronary arteries is completely blocked. With BHS, however, severe blockages are not present.

With the right care, this type of cardiomyopathy typically reverses itself within four weeks and there is no long-term damage to your heart.