Scientists prove "broken heart"

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Researchers identify "broken heart" as a stress infarction.

It doesn't sound very scientific. Two to three patients suspected of having a heart attack actually suffer from the broken heart syndrome. Researchers at the Hannover Medical School (MHH) and the University Hospital in Zurich have discovered a new method that can be used to better diagnose this specific disease. About 2.5 percent of all patients diagnosed with a heart attack suffer from the so-called syndrome. The symptoms have the same characteristics in both cases. Chest pain and shortness of breath, the ECG and certain biomarkers are identical. It is precisely for this reason that it is often difficult for emergency doctors arriving to recognize the difference.

Excessive stress hormone levels as a trigger This disorder was only recognized as a disease in the 1990s, although the cause is unclear. Blood level tests show an increased value of the body's stress hormones catecholamines such as adrenaline and noradrenaline and are considered as triggers. So far, the diagnosis of "broken heart" can only be made with the help of cardiac catheterization. In this syndrome, the coronary arteries are “open” to a heart attack.

It is a dysfunction of the heart muscle and occurs suddenly. Usually after an extraordinary emotional stress such as the death of a loved one, bullying at work or unexpected financial worries. Older women are predominantly affected (90 percent), whereas normal heart attacks affect older men (70 percent).

Broken heart can recover The prognosis is favorable for most patients. After a few weeks, the heart function returned to normal in the majority. In the acute stage, however, serious and life-threatening complications are common. After the acute phase, the pumping function of the heart usually recovers completely and a few weeks later the heart muscle usually functions normally again. A heart attack, on the other hand, creates scars that remain permanently and can impair pumping.

Scientists from both university hospitals can now identify the broken heart syndrome from certain small RNA sequences in the patient's blood. Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is essentially responsible for gene regulation in cells. "A specific pattern of four microRNAs distinguishes the syndrome from a heart attack," said MHH expert Thomas Thum.

With the help of further studies, the detection procedure is now to be confirmed and also accelerated. The researchers expect the evidence to be available in clinics in a few years. The results of the study were published in the European Heart Journal. (fr)

Image: La-Liana /

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