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Male Heart Attack Patients Receive Faster Care than Female Patients

Update Date: Mar 17, 2014 01:17 PM EDT

According to a new study, heart attack treatment and care might discriminate against women. The study conducted in Canada reported that younger males who suffer from heart attacks and angina, also known as chest pain, are more likely than younger female heart attack patients to get faster care.

In this study, the research team recruited 1,123 patients from 24 centers within Canada, one center from the United States and one more from Switzerland. The participants were between the ages of 18 and 55. The median age for women was 50 and the median age for men was 49. 32 percent or 362 of them were females and 68 percent or 761 of them were males.

The researchers were able to collect information on the level of care by administering surveys to the patients within 24 hours after hospitalization. The survey asked the participants about gender-related issues, such as personality traits tied to masculinity or femininity, housework load, education level and health status before heart attack or angina.

The researchers found that women who had lower incomes were more likely to have diabetes, hypertension and a family history of heart disease. They also had higher levels of anxiety and depression. When the researchers focused on the participants' treatment and care, they found that male patients generally received electrocardiograms (ECGs) and fibrinolysis faster than female patients around the same age did. Men received ECG within 15 minutes whereas women got care after 28 minutes. For fibrinolysis, men received care after 21 minutes whereas for women, it took 36 minutes.

"Anxiety was associated with failure to meet the 10-minute benchmark for ECG in women but not in men," Dr. Louise Pilote, clinician-researcher, Division of Clinical Epidemiology at the Research Institute of McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), Montréal, and professor of medicine at McGill University wrote in the study. "Patients with anxiety who present to the emergency department with noncardiac chest pain tend to be women, and the prevalence of acute coronary syndrome is lower among young women than among young men. These findings suggest that triage personnel might initially dismiss a cardiac event among young women with anxiety, which would result in a longer door-to-ECG interval."

The study, "Sex-related differences in access to care among patients with premature acute coronary syndrome," was published in Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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