Lightning strike is the most common environmental cause of sudden cardiac death, but may also be associated with a myriad of injuries to various organ systems. Direct myocardial injury may be manifest as electrocardiographic alterations or elevation in cardiac-specific isoenzymes; however, significant electrical cardiac trauma appears uncommon. A case is presented of severe acute cardiomyopathy in a “Takotsubo” distribution causing cardiogenic shock following lightning strike in a previously healthy 37-year-old woman. Although rarely identified in this context, Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (also known as “transient left ventricular apical ballooning syndrome”) is characterised by transient cardiac dysfunction, electrocardiographic changes that may mimic acute myocardial infarction and minimal release of cardiac-specific enzymes in the absence of obstructive coronary artery disease. The condition is associated with a substantial female bias (up to 90% of cases) in reported series, and despite occasionally dramatic presentations recovery of left ventricular function is almost universal over days to weeks. In rare instances, however, the syndrome has been associated with more catastrophic complications such as papillary muscle or cardiac free wall rupture, necessitating emergency surgical intervention to preserve life. In clinical practice, non-lethal lightning strike-induced cardiac injury is frequently associated with small elevations of cardiac isoenzymes without overt clinical sequelae; however, the incidence of silent myocardial mechanical dysfunction remains unknown. Cases such as the one presented highlight the potential for serious, albeit usually transient, cardiac sequelae from lightning strike injury and remind us that our mothers’ advice to remain indoors during thunderstorms is probably worth heeding.
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Competing interests: None.
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