Takotsubo Syndrome

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In his 87th year, the artist Michelangelo (1475-1564) is believed to have said, "Ancora imparo"--"I am still learning." Hence, the name for my monthly observations and comments.--Rick Rader, MD, Editor-in-Chief, EP Magazine

One of the neat things about medicine (from a literary perspective) is the vast array of uniquely named syndromes.

There are syndromes that are named after the physician who first described them (but not necessarily the first who "found" them). For instance Down syndrome is named after Langdon Down who in 1866 provided an elaborate description of individuals with Trisomy 21. By all rights it should be called Esquirol syndrome after the physician Jean Etienne Dominique Esquirol who first described the syndrome in 1838.

Then we have diseases that are simply "funny sounding." Maple Syrup Urine Disease, Chikungunya Fever and Foreign Accent Syndrome are among my favorites. My personal best has long been "Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Disease." Let's just say I'm glad I don't have any of them.

Sometimes the best disorders are the ones with a single name. Mange, angina, phlebitis, mumps and scurvy all sound like they came out of a Madison Avenue advertising shop in the 60's.

Never content with any of my "lists" (that includes "lists" of things I need to see, have or experience) I recently went exploring, and came up with a "dusey." As an aside, to the best of my knowledge there is no "Dusey disease," a great name that should be reserved for an unimaginable pathology; perhaps something that you can only be exposed to by entering another dimension.

I came across Takotsubo Syndrome. It's dreadful and quite rare. I only wish I knew about Takotsubo syndrome when I was in medical school. Not so much that I would have been able to diagnose it, but when asked for a list of differentials (what other disorders should we consider for this patient?) it would have been a game changing moment to be able to place my index finger on my lower lip and offer, "Could it possibly be Takotsubo syndrome, Professor Newman?" It would have been the equivalent of hitting the Grand Rounds sweet spot. It wouldn't have even mattered that the syndrome had anything to do with the organ system that was the focus of the patients' presenting symptom. The sheer exotica of it, the "one-upmanship" value would have been worth the risk of ridicule.

Takotsubo is the Japanese name (you guessed it, a bunch of Japanese doctors got the "naming rights" by first describing it) for ... this is too good. In fact if I was recounting this to you at a cocktail party I would go down the line and ask you to guess what it means. You would never get it (a sure bar bet). Takotsubo is the Japanese name for octopus traps. We're not talking about ancient Japanese fishermen, modern fishermen still use these traps to catch octopus. In fact this is not some feudal disease; it was first described and named in 1990. …