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Eur J Echocardiogr. 2006 Jan;7(1):53-61. Epub 2005 Sep 22.

Tako-Tsubo cardiomyopathy: new insights into the possible underlying pathophysiology.

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St George's Hospital, Department of Cardiology, Blackshaw Road, London SW 17-0Q8, UK.


Tako-Tsubo cardiomyopathy is characterised by an atypical distribution of left ventricular (LV) dysynergy with apical ballooning and compensatory basal hyperkinesis. Coronary angiography is normal. Several substrates have been put forward to explain the underlying pathophysiology such as raised catecholamine levels (due to physical or emotional stress), multivessel epicardial coronary spasm or diffuse microvascular spasm. However, the pathophysiology has not yet been fully clarified. We present a series of cases whose findings could explain the mechanism underlying this syndrome. Four consecutives patients, all female, were admitted with the clinical features typical of Tako-Tsubo syndrome. In all, severe widespread transient LV mid-apical a/dyskinesia was associated with a mid-cavity dynamic obstruction which resolved prior to the resolution of the LV wall motion abnormalities. In all cases the dynamic LV obstruction was related to localised mid-ventricular septal thickening. After improvement in wall motion, a low-dose strain/strain rate dobutamine stress-echocardiography (DSE) was performed to determine the underlying ischaemic substrate. This provoked an LV mid-cavity gradient at peak dose in all. Regional deformation changes during DSE showed the affected myocardium to have the typical response diagnostic of regional stunning.


We postulate that an important unrecognised factor in the development of Tako-Tsubo cardiomyopathy is the presence of abnormal myocardial functional architecture (such as localised mid-ventricular septal thickening), which in the presence of dehydration and/or raised catecholamine levels due to physical or emotional stress, leads the development of a severe transient LV mid-cavity obstruction. This effectively sub-divides the LV into two functionally different chambers with a marked increase in wall stress in the high pressure distal apical chamber. This, in combination with the abnormal high circulating catecholamine levels, induces widespread sub-endocardial ischaemia which is unrelated to a specific coronary artery territory. With rehydration/fall in catecholamine levels the interventricular gradient resolves and distal function recovers. Low dose SR/S DSE confirms that the distal ischaemic substrate is myocardial stunning.

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