Preparing for your appointmentBy Mayo Clinic staff
Broken heart syndrome is almost always diagnosed in an emergency or hospital setting, since most people with the condition have symptoms identical to a heart attack.
Call 911 or emergency medical help or have someone drive you to an emergency room if you experience new or unexplained chest pain or pressure that lasts for more than a few moments. Don't waste any time for fear of embarrassment if it's not a heart attack. Even if there's another cause for your chest pain, you need to be seen right away.
Have a family member or friend come with you, if possible. Someone who accompanies you can help soak up all the information provided during your evaluation.
Share this information on the way to the hospital:
- Any symptoms you're experiencing, and how long you've had them.
- Your key personal information, including any major stresses, such as the death of a loved one, or recent life changes, such as the loss of a job.
- Your personal and family medical history, including other health problems that you or your close relatives have had, such as diabetes, high cholesterol or heart disease. It's also helpful for your doctor to know about any prescription and over-the-counter medications you're taking.
- Any recent trauma to your chest that may have caused an internal injury, such as a broken rib or pinched nerve.
Once you're at the hospital, it's likely that your medical evaluation will move ahead rapidly. Based on results from an electrocardiogram (ECG) and blood tests, your doctor may be able to quickly determine if you are having a heart attack — or give you another explanation for your symptoms. You'll probably have a number of questions at this point. If you haven't received the following information, you may want to ask:
- What do you think is causing my symptoms?
- Could my symptoms be due to the sudden unexpected death of my partner, as I've never had any symptoms like this before?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- Will I need to stay in the hospital?
- What treatments do I need right now?
- What are the risks associated with these treatments?
- What are the next steps in my diagnosis and treatment?
- Do I need to follow any restrictions in my diet or exercise routine after returning home?
- Should I see a specialist after returning home?
Don't hesitate to ask any additional questions that occur to you during your medical evaluation.
What to expect from the doctor
A doctor who sees you for chest pain may ask:
- What are your symptoms?
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms gotten worse over time?
- Where does your pain seem to start?
- Does your pain radiate to any other parts of your body?
- Does your pain momentarily increase with each heartbeat?
- What words would you use to describe your pain?
- Are you having any trouble breathing?
- Do your symptoms include nausea or vomiting?
- Do your symptoms include dizziness or lightheadedness?
- Does exercise or physical exertion make your symptoms worse?
- Does anything else seem to make your pain worse?
- Does anything seem to make your pain better?
- Are you aware of any history of heart problems in your family?
- Are you being treated or have you recently been treated for any other health conditions?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?
- What medications are you currently taking, including vitamins and supplements?
- Do you or did you smoke? How much?
- Do you use alcohol or caffeine? How much?
- Nef HM, et al. Mechanisms of stress (Takotsubo) cardiomyopathy. Nature Reviews. 2010;7:187.
- Wynne J, et al. Cardiomyopathy and myocarditis. In: Fauci AS, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw Hill Medical; 2008. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=2902533. Accessed Dec. 8, 2010.
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- Derrick D. The "broken heart syndrome": Understanding Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Critical Care Nurse. 2009;29:49.
- Grogan M (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 14, 2010.
- Martin EA, et al. Endothelial function and vascular response to mental stress are impaired in patients with apical ballooning syndrome. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2010;56:1840.
- Rosenow E (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 11, 2010.