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Clusters of 'broken hearts' may be linked to massive natural disasters
Date:3/27/2014

ite the seemingly increasing number of natural disasters we have, there is limited data about how it might affect the heart," said Sadip Pant, M.D., internist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and lead investigator of the study. "Our findings suggest two disasters, one in Vermont and one in Missouri, might have been possible triggers for the clustering of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy cases in these regions."

Patients with broken heart syndrome often complain of chest pain and shortness of breath, symptoms that mimic those of a heart attack, which can delay diagnosis. In addition, biomarkers in the blood and changes on electrocardiogram can raise suspicions of possible heart attack. While broken heart syndrome typically resolves within a month or two, in the acute scenario it can result in serious complications such as heart failure, life-threatening arrhythmias and stroke. Previous studies by the same group found that as many as one in four patients with broken heart syndrome have some form of arrhythmia and 1 to 7 percent suffer cardiac arrest. Many patients are diagnosed in the cath lab when doctors see there are no blockages in the artery, or imaging reveals changes in the shape of the heart that are characteristic of broken heart syndrome.

"By and large, it is a very reversible form of cardiomyopathy, but in the acute phase these patients need to be monitored closely to be sure they are stable and to prevent and manage problems," Pant said, adding that the impetus for the study was the increasing number of cases and a desire to find out what might trigger clusters of broken heart syndrome. "It's also something that emergency doctors and medical personnel need to be aware of as they are often on the frontlines seeing patients after disaster strikes."

Episodes are thought to be driven by the sympathetic response and surges of adrenaline in the body, similar to the well-known fight-or-flight reaction. This leads to depress
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Contact: Beth Casteel
bcasteel@acc.org
202-375-6275
American College of Cardiology
Source:Eurekalert

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