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Emotional stress as a trigger of myasthenic crisis and concomitant takotsubo cardiomyopathy: a case report

Said R Beydoun1*, JingTian Wang1, Reed Loring Levine2 and Ali Farvid3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neurology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA

2 Department of Anesthesiology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA

3 Department of Cardiology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA

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Journal of Medical Case Reports 2010, 4:393  doi:10.1186/1752-1947-4-393

Published: 3 December 2010



Myasthenia gravis is a neuromuscular junction post-synaptic autoimmune disorder. Myasthenic crisis is characterized by respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is a rare clinical syndrome defined as a profound but reversible left ventricular dysfunction in the absence of coronary artery disease.

Case presentation

We report a unique case of a 60-year-old Hispanic woman with myasthenia gravis who developed takotsubo cardiomyopathy and concomitant myasthenic crisis that appear to have been triggered by a stressful life event. On admission, she presented with severe mid-sternal chest pain and shortness of breath shortly after a personally significant stressful life event. A pertinent neurological examination showed bilateral facial weakness and right ptosis. The left ventriculogram showed apical ballooning with hyperdynamic proximal segments with sparing of the apex. Her troponin I level was elevated, while cardiac catheterization revealed no significant coronary artery disease. The findings were consistent with takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Shortly after cardiac catheterization, she developed bilateral ophthalmoparesis and significant bulbar and respiratory muscle weakness. Forced vital capacity values were persistently less than 1 L. The patient developed respiratory failure and required endotracheal intubation. After plasmapheresis and corticosteroid treatment, her clinical course improved with successful extubation. A normal left ventricle chamber size and a normal ejection fraction were noted by an echocardiogram repeated 10 months later.


This is the first reported case of the simultaneous triggering of both takotsubo cardiomyopathy and myasthenic crisis by the physiologic consequences of a state of severe emotional stress. We hypothesize that the mechanism underlying the rare association of takotsubo cardiomyopathy with myasthenic crisis involves excessive endogenous glucocorticoid release, a high-catecholamine state, or a combination of both. We advocate careful cardiac monitoring of myasthenia gravis patients during acute emotional or physical stress, as there is potential risk of developing takotsubo cardiomyopathy.