What Is Heart Rupture?

  • Lewis Spencer Doctor of Philosophy - PhD, Biomedical Sciences, General, University of Derby


The heart, a vital organ in the circulatory system, functions as a muscular pump responsible for propelling oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body. Heart rupture is a severe and life-threatening condition characterised by the tearing or splitting of the heart tissue. This situation constitutes a medical emergency necessitating prompt attention and intervention.

Understanding heart rupture, including its types, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options, is essential for recognising the condition early and improving patient outcomes. In this article, we will delve into the anatomy of the heart, the different types of heart rupture, its underlying causes, symptoms, diagnostic methods, and various treatment approaches.

Anatomy of the heart

The heart is a remarkable organ located in the chest cavity, located between the lungs. Its primary function involves circulating blood throughout the body, facilitating the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and organs.1

In terms of structure, the heart consists of four chambers: two atria located at the top and two ventricles positioned at the bottom.2 Oxygen-depleted blood from the body is received by the right atrium and then propelled into the right ventricle through pumping action. The right ventricle then sends the blood to the lungs for oxygenation. After circulating through the body, oxygen-rich blood returns to the left atrium, where it is subsequently pumped into the left ventricle. The left ventricle, being the most muscular chamber, propels the oxygenated blood into the aorta, the body's largest artery, which distributes it to various tissues and organs.

Types of heart rupture

Heart rupture can manifest in different forms,3 each affecting specific areas of the heart and caused by different underlying factors. These include:

Ventricular rupture:

Ventricular rupture4 involves the tearing of the ventricular walls, which are the thick and muscular chambers responsible for pumping blood out of the heart. The most common cause of ventricular rupture is myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack. During a heart attack, a blood clot or plaque buildup in the coronary arteries (the blood vessels which supply the heart muscle itself) restricts blood flow, leading to the death of a portion of the heart muscle. Over time, the weakened tissue may rupture, resulting in a ventricular wall tear.

Symptoms of ventricular rupture include sudden, severe chest pain, profuse sweating, rapid breathing, fainting, and an irregular heartbeat. Emergency surgery is often required to repair the ruptured ventricular wall and prevent further complications.

Atrial rupture:

Atrial rupture is a less common form of heart rupture and is typically caused by traumatic injuries to the chest. Severe impact or force can damage the atrial walls, leading to blood leakage into the pericardial sac (the protective membrane surrounding the heart).

Indications of atrial rupture can encompass chest discomfort, breathing difficulties, and additional manifestations indicative of heart failure. Treatment typically involves a prompt surgical intervention to repair the damaged atrial walls.

Septal rupture:

Septal rupture5 occurs when there is a tear in the septum, the wall that separates the heart's left and right ventricles. This type of rupture often occurs as a complication following a myocardial infarction. As the weakened tissue of the septum ruptures, it can result in the mixing of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood, leading to further heart problems. Signs such as breathlessness, fatigue, and an accelerated heartbeat may manifest. Surgical repair stands as the foremost treatment for septal rupture.

Causes and risk factors

Heart rupture is commonly associated with pre-existing heart diseases or conditions that weaken the heart's tissues.6 Some common causes and risk factors include:

Heart diseases and conditions:

  • Atherosclerosis - this condition entails the accumulation of fatty deposits (plaque) within the arteries, leading to the narrowing of blood vessels and diminishing blood flow to the heart muscle. Over time, this can lead to myocardial infarction and subsequent heart rupture.
  • Cardiomyopathy - cardiomyopathy is a group of heart muscle diseases that weaken the heart, making it more susceptible to rupture. Dilated cardiomyopathy, in particular, is associated with an increased risk of heart rupture.
  • Heart trauma - severe chest injuries, such as those sustained in car accidents, falls, or other traumatic incidents, can directly damage the heart's tissues and lead to heart rupture.

Pre-existing health conditions:

  • Hypertension - high blood pressure puts additional strain on the heart, making it more susceptible to rupture, particularly in weakened areas of the heart muscle.
  • Diabetes - inadequately managed diabetes can harm blood vessels, elevate the likelihood of atherosclerosis, and contribute to heart disease, all of which can predispose individuals to heart rupture.
  • Obesity - an excess of body weight imposes an additional strain on the heart, heightening the likelihood of cardiovascular issues, which may include heart rupture.

Symptoms of heart rupture

Recognising the symptoms of heart rupture is crucial for seeking immediate medical attention and potentially preventing life-threatening complications.7 Common symptoms include:

  • Sudden, severe chest pain - the most prominent symptom of heart rupture is intense and crushing chest pain, often described as a feeling of pressure or squeezing in the chest.
  • Profuse sweating - experiencing excessive sweating, especially when combined with other symptoms, may indicate heart rupture.
  • Rapid breathing and shortness of breath - individuals with heart rupture may experience difficulty breathing, accompanied by a rapid respiratory rate, due to compromised cardiovascular function.
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness - eart rupture may result in a sudden decrease in blood pressure, leading to fainting or loss of consciousness.
  • Irregular heartbeat - heart rupture may result in abnormal heart rhythms, such as palpitations, which can be detected by the patient or through medical examination.


When heart rupture is suspected, a series of diagnostic tests and evaluations will be conducted to assess the patient's condition and determine the appropriate treatment.8 These may include:

  • Physical examination - a healthcare professional will perform a thorough physical examination, including checking vital signs, listening to the heart's sounds, and assessing for any signs of heart failure or other abnormalities.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) - an ECG is a non-invasive test that records the heart's electrical activity. It can help identify irregular heart rhythms, signs of previous heart attacks, and any abnormalities suggesting heart rupture.
  • Echocardiogram - an echocardiogram is an ultrasound-based imaging test that provides detailed images of the heart's structure and function. It can help detect abnormalities in the heart's walls, chambers, and valves, aiding in the diagnosis of heart rupture.
  • Blood tests - specific blood tests, such as cardiac biomarkers, can indicate heart muscle damage. Elevated levels of certain enzymes or proteins in the blood may suggest a heart rupture or a recent heart attack.
  • Cardiac catheterisation - cardiac catheterisation is an invasive procedure in which a thin tube (catheter) is inserted into one of your blood vessels (usually in your groin) and guided to the heart. It allows for direct measurement of pressures within the heart and evaluation of blood flow. This procedure is especially useful in complex cases of heart rupture or when other diagnostic methods are inconclusive.

Emergency response and first aid

When heart rupture is suspected, it is vital to call for emergency medical help immediately. While awaiting the arrival of medical professionals, it is crucial to follow these steps:

  • Stay calm and reassure the person - keeping the person calm can help reduce anxiety and stress, which can be beneficial during a medical emergency.
  • Help the person lie down and rest comfortably - lying down can improve blood flow to the heart and brain, reducing the strain on the cardiovascular system.
  • Do not administer medications without medical advice - administering medications without proper medical guidance can potentially worsen the condition or interfere with medical treatment.

Treatment and management

The treatment approach for heart rupture depends on its type, severity, and the patient's overall health. In severe cases, emergency surgery is often required to repair the damaged heart tissues and prevent further complications. During surgery, the ruptured area is repaired, and any bleeding is controlled. In some cases, artificial patches or grafts may be used to reinforce weakened heart tissue.9

 In addition to surgery, treatment may include:

  • Medication and drug therapy - medications may be prescribed to stabilise the patient's condition, manage symptoms, and prevent further damage. Commonly used medications include blood pressure medications, diuretics, antiarrhythmic drugs, and antiplatelet agents.
  • Lifestyle changes and rehabilitation - after recovery from heart rupture and surgery, lifestyle modifications are essential to promote heart health and prevent future complications. These may include adopting a heart-healthy diet, engaging in regular physical activity, quitting smoking, and managing stress.
  • Long-term monitoring and follow-up care - regular follow-up visits with a cardiologist are essential to monitor heart health and manage any underlying conditions that may contribute to heart rupture.

Prevention strategies

While heart rupture is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition, certain measures can significantly reduce the risk of its occurrence:10

  • Managing heart disease risk factors - controlling blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and diabetes through medication and lifestyle changes can significantly reduce the risk of heart rupture.
  • Regular exercise and healthy diet - engaging in regular physical activity and adopting a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can support heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Understanding family history - being aware of any family history of heart disease can help individuals take proactive steps towards prevention. Informing healthcare professionals of any family history can also aid in early detection and management.
  • Regular health check-ups - regular check-ups with a healthcare professional can aid in early detection and management of potential heart problems. Monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other vital signs can help identify risk factors for heart rupture.


Heart rupture is a serious and life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention and intervention. Understanding the anatomy of the heart, the various types of heart rupture, its underlying causes, and the associated symptoms is essential for recognising the condition early and seeking prompt treatment. Diagnostic tests, such as ECGs and echocardiograms, play a crucial role in confirming heart rupture and guiding appropriate treatment decisions.

Prevention plays a vital role in reducing the risk of heart rupture. By managing heart disease risk factors, adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, and seeking regular health check-ups, individuals can take proactive steps towards safeguarding their heart health and preventing heart rupture and other cardiovascular complications. Remember, timely medical intervention can save lives, so never hesitate to seek immediate help if you suspect heart rupture or experience any concerning symptoms.


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  7. Pujari SH, Agasthi P. Left ventricular rupture. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2023 Aug 3]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559271/
  8. López-Sendón J, González A, de Sá EL, Coma-Canella I, Roldán I, Domínguez F, et al. Diagnosis of subacute ventricular wall rupture after acute myocardial infarction: Sensitivity and specificity of clinical, hemodynamic and echocardiographic criteria. Journal of the American College of Cardiology [Internet]. 1992 May 1 [cited 2023 Aug 3];19(6):1145–53. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/073510979290315E
  9. Helmy TA, Nicholson WJ, Lick S, Uretsky BF. Contained myocardial rupture: a variant linking complete and incomplete rupture. Heart [Internet]. 2005 Feb 1 [cited 2023 Aug 3];91(2):e13–e13. Available from: https://heart.bmj.com/content/91/2/e13
  10. Weisburger JH. Lifestyle, health and disease prevention: the underlying mechanisms. European Journal of Cancer Prevention [Internet]. 2002 [cited 2023 Aug 3];11:S1–7. Available from: https://www.jstor.org/stable/45051291 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Dr. Lewis Spencer

Doctor of Philosophy - PhD, Biomedical Sciences, General, University of Derby

Lewis is a PhD graduate, where his research focus was on obesity and diabetes treatment with GLP-1 Receptor Agonists. He also has 6 years' experience as an Associate Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Physiology and Research Methods. He is now working as a Health Information Specialist.

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