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Heart Disease Health Center

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Women's Heart Disease Care Tops $1M

Treating Chest Pain Driving Cost of Women's Heart Disease Care

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 21, 2006 -- Treating symptoms of heart diseaseheart disease in the average woman may add up to more than $1 million over the course of her lifetime, according to a new study.

The results suggest that treating chest pain associated with clogged arteries, known in medical terms as coronary artery disease (CAD), is the major driver of treatment costs for women with heart disease.

"Lifetime health care costs can reach $1 million for each woman with heart disease in this country," says researcher Leslee J. Shaw, PhD, of the division of cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, in a news release. "The societal burden for coronary artery disease for women with chest pain is expensive and could be responsible for a sizeable portion of U.S. health care costs."

Treating Women's Hearts Adds Up

In the study, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers followed 883 women who had been referred for a coronary angiogram, a procedure that uses a catheter to deliver dye into the coronary arteries which supply the heart muscle. A specialized X-ray examination of the coronary arteries can then detect for clogged arteries.

When someone is suspected to have CAD, such as a person who is experiencing chest pain or anginaangina, a coronary angiogram can be done to evaluate for blockage.

The results of the study showed that 62% of the women had "nonobstructive" coronary artery disease or blockage of less than 50% of the artery; 38% of the women had one to three coronary arteries with blockage or narrowing.

"Almost two-thirds of these women had heart disease, but it was nonobstructive -- there was no lesion or blockage, no significant narrowing of the vessels, nothing to be considered high risk. So we assumed that these women would not have as many health care needs as those with blockage of one, two or three, blood vessels," says Shaw. "But we found that the key factor was ongoing angina -- the chest pain or discomfort that occurs when your heart doesn't get as much blood and oxygen as it needs. It was a very prominent driver of the need for clinical care, outpatient therapy, hospitalization, and drug therapies."

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