A new study on heart attack victims in Florida has revealed that women have a higher chance of survival when treated by women doctors — a finding that builds on previous research from Australia, Sweden and the U.K., which found that women heart attack sufferers were more frequently misdiagnosed and subjected to improper treatment. In an article for Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Brad Greenwood of the University of Minnesota and his co-writers on the study said that after accounting for factors such as age, health, the doctor, and hospital-specific differences, the probability of death for women in heart attack cases increased by 0.6 percentage points when they were treated by male doctors. Interestingly, the study also found that survival rates for women increased in emergency wards that had a higher proportion of women doctors who had treated heart attacks
“These results suggest a reason why gender inequality in heart attack mortality persists: most physicians are male, and male physicians appear to have trouble treating female patients,” the authors wrote, adding that including more women doctors in emergency departments would likely improve outcomes for women patients.
According to Chris Gale, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Leeds, it’s possible that women patients are more likely to present atypical symptoms — or that doctors are more likely to dismiss symptoms in women due to longstanding notions that middle-aged men with risk factors such as smoking, being overweight and having high blood pressure are more likely to suffer heart attacks.
“What we do know is that women present with heart attack as well, and you don’t necessarily need to have those risk factors,” said Gale. “We also know that women with heart attack do have symptoms just like men do, but they can also present atypically as well.”
Read the full story at The Guardian.