Medical Care After A Heart Attack Worse For Women Than Men: Study

New research raises serious concerns about gender disparity in the quality of care received after a heart attack, indicating women are more likely to die in the hospital.

Women under the age of 55 are less likely to receive the needed tests and treatments for a heart attack that men routinely receive, according to findings published this week researchers from Emory University in the medical journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

Few studies have been conducted on how women experience heart attacks compared to men, or how their treatment may differ, especially among young adults, the researchers noted.

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To that end, researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study of patients who suffered heart attacks and cariogenic shock. The study included more than 90,000 patients ages 18 to 55 years old who suffered a heart attack from 2000 to 2017.

According to the findings, 26% of those patients were women. However, women ages 18 to 55 are 11% more likely to die in the hospital after suffering a heart attack than men.

The study’s findings indicate women are less likely to receive the tests and aggressive treatment they need after having a heart attack; treatments men routinely receive. This can cause women to experience cariogenic shock, when the heart can’t pump enough blood to keep the patient alive. It is the leading cause of death after heart attack and kills about half of patients who survive a heart attack and are admitted to the hospital.

The findings suggest women are less likely to receive treatments like angiograms to detect blockages, stents or balloons to open blockages, or be placed on mechanical pumps to maintain heart function.

Roughly 78% of women and 81% of men underwent coronary angiography. Similarly, 49% of women and 54% of men underwent angiography on the day they were admitted to the hospital. About 59% of women and 64% of men received stents or balloons to open blocked arteries and half of women but 60% of men were placed on mechanical pumps.

The data indicates women had lower hospitalization costs averaging $156,000 compared to $167,000 for men. This is because men and women did not get the same treatment in the hospital even though they had similar lengths of stay.

The study highlights disparities of treatment between men and women. Women don’t always have the same symptoms as men, which can lead to misdiagnosis, but doctors should be aware research is based on the average middle-aged white man. That is not the average patient, the researchers warned.

Women can experience atypical heart attack symptoms, like stomach pain and headaches. These are not often associated with heart attacks, especially during training in medical school.

Researchers emphasize some of the differences in treatment between men and women may be related to conscious and unconscious bias among doctors, the health care system, and even the family.

Eliminating the disparities begins by recognizing there are differences to begin with, researchers determined. They called for the healthcare system to treat women as attentively as men.

“In young acute myocardial infarction cardiogenic shock admissions, women are treated less aggressively and experience higher in-hospital mortality than men,” wrote study authors.

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