UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Cardiology

Title: stress cardiomyopathy

Keywords: cardiomyopathy, stress (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/5/2008 by Amal Mattu, MD (Updated: 8/17/2022)
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Severe emotional stress is well-reported to produce an unusual transient cardiomyopathy that mimics cardiac ischemia or infarction on ECG as well as biomarker testing. On angiography, the coronaries are often clean. The ventriculogram takes on an apical or mid-ventricular ballooning appearance due to akinesis. In the ED, these patients will look just like a real thrombosis-related case of ACS and they often develop cardiogenic shock. Unlike true AMI-related cardiogenic shock, these patients have an excellent prognosis...if treated aggressively early-on with supportive therapy (e.g. pressors).

Intracranial catastrophes, such as hemorrhage, ischemic stroke, and head trauma; and severe medical illnesses, such as sepsis, pheochromocytoma, and catecholamine-excess states, are also reported to produce a similar syndrome of LV dysfunction.

The takeaway points: (1) severe emotional stress can be deadly...be wary of diagnosing "anxiety" or "panic attack" without checking an ECG; (2) check an ECG early in the course of any patients with the above conditions that look sick; (3) if the ECG shows signs of severe ischemia, aggressive treatment can be life-saving.

[ref: Bybee KA, Prasad A. Stress-related cardiomyopathy syndromes. Circulation 2008;118;397-409.]