Women Often Do Not Receive Life-Saving Cardiac Arrest Treatments: Study

Compared to men, women who suffer a cardiac arrest may be less likely to survive or receive needed life-saving medical treatments, according to the findings of a new study. 

In a study published online this week by the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers indicate that women received less of the therapies needed after suffering cardiac arrest. They were 25% less likely than men to undergo coronary angiography and 25% less likely to have an angioplasty, a procedure that opens blockages in the arteries.

The retrospective analysis was conducted by researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College, in New York, using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample database of all patients who suffered cardiac arrest between 2003 to 2012. More than 1.4 million patients suffered cardiac arrest and about 45% were female.

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Women were not only less likely to receive angiography or angioplasty, but they were 19% less likely to undergo therapeutic hypothermia, a procedure that cools the body to help prevent brain damage.

Overall women were not treated as aggressively as men and were more likely to die after cardiac arrest. Some women who received these treatments still had lower survival rates than men.

The findings raise questions as to whether women are receiving the accepted standards of care for cardiac arrests, which could lead to accusations of medical malpractice following a heart attack.

Over the 10-year study period, researchers found a significant decrease in in-hospital mortality in women, however their mortality rates were still higher than men. Mortality rates for women decreased from 69% to 61%, compared to a drop from 67% to 58% for men after cardiac arrest.

Women who suffered ventricular tachycardia/ventricular fibrillation cardiac arrest had a mortality rate of 49% compared to men who suffered the same type of cardiac arrest whose mortality rate was 45%.

Researchers say this could be that women are less likely to have cardiac arrests that respond to treatment with a defibrillator.

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions and the heart suddenly stops working. More than 300,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of hospitals in the U.S. each year.

Survival rates for cardiac arrests occurring outside of the hospital rose from six percent in 2005 to eight percent in 2012.

“Despite trends in improving survival after cardiac arrest over 10 years, women continue to have higher in-hospital mortality when compared with men,” wrote study authors.


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