Women Face Delays in Heart Attack Care: Study
Researchers found female patients under 55 waiting longer than males for ECGs, clot-busting drugs
By Robert Preidt
MONDAY, March 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Among young and middle-aged adults, men tend to receive faster hospital care than women for heart attacks and chest pains, a new study finds.
Anxiety appeared to be a key factor -- women who appeared anxious upon admittance to the hospital tended to have delays in crucial care, the study authors found.
"Patients with anxiety who present to the emergency department with noncardiac chest pain tend to be women, and the prevalence of [heart attack or chest pains] is lower among young women than among young men," the Canadian researchers said. "These findings suggest that [emergency-room staff] might initially dismiss a cardiac event among young women with anxiety."
One heart expert wasn't surprised by the findings.
"It has been shown in multiple trials that there are gender differences in the treatment of heart disease between men and women entering a hospital," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"In younger adults, ages 18 to 55, this reality has also shown to be true," she said. "When women enter a hospital, it is critical that this bias is eradicated."
In the study, researchers looked at more than 1,100 adults aged 55 or younger treated for heart attack or chest pains -- also called angina -- at 24 hospitals in Canada, one in the United States and one in Switzerland. The median ages of the patients were 50 for women and 49 for men.
After arriving at the hospital, men underwent electrocardiograms (ECGs) within 15 minutes and clot-dissolving therapy within 21 minutes, compared with 28 minutes and 36 minutes, respectively, for women, the researchers said in the March 17 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
"Anxiety was associated with failure to meet the 10-minute benchmark for ECG in women but not in men," said the researchers, led by Dr. Louise Pilote, a professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal.
Digging deeper, the researchers found that patients with multiple heart attack risk factors and those with heart attack symptoms that were considered outside the norm also faced delays in care.