Women more likely to survive heart attack if treated by female doctor

Female doctor and senior patient reviewing medical chart in clinic examination room

Female doctor and senior patient reviewing medical chart in clinic examination room

"But, if the survival rate among the female heart attack patients treated by male doctors was the same as the survival rate among female heart attack patients treated by female doctors, about 1500-3000 fewer of the female heart attack patients in our sample would have passed away".

Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said previous research from the charity had already shown a "worrying difference" in the treatment given to men and women suffering from heart attacks.

Scientists in the U.S. reviewed almost 582,000 heart attack cases in Florida over a period of 19 years.

Lead scientist Dr Seth Carnahan, from Washington University, in St Louis, said: "Our work corroborates prior research showing that female doctors tend to produce better patient outcomes than male doctors".

Put another way, a heart attack patient dies in the ER about 11.9 percent of the time overall-but the research team found women with heart attacks will die about 12.4 percent of the time if their cases are handled by male doctors. Heart attacks are currently the leading cause of death among both American men and women across the economic spectrum, and now account for about a quarter of all fatalities in the United States, the researchers noted. But women who were treated by men were 12 per cent more likely to die than the average patient, meaning their absolute chance of dying rose to 13.4 per cent.

BOSTON-If you're a woman and having a heart attack (what's called in medical parlance an "acute myocardial infarction" or AMI), do your best to make sure you're treated by a female physician.

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By another way of looking at the data, "female patients treated by male physicians were 1.52 per cent less likely to survive than male patients treated by female physicians". "Getting to an ER in a timely fashion is likely to matter more than the gender of one's physician".

Women are more likely to have a "silent" heart attack or to display unusual symptoms.

The solution may be simply to add more female doctors in emergency departments, researchers argued.

Their chances were also improved if treated by a male doctor who had a lot of female colleagues in his team. "Such research might include experimental interventions, or tests of more targeted training, to examine how exposing male physicians more thoroughly to the presentation of female patients might impact outcomes", they say.

"Given the cost of male physicians' learning on the job, it may be more effective to increase the presence of female physicians". But a heart attack in women often starts with harder-to-interpret flu-like symptoms along with an aching jaw and spine. "It seems that the female doctors practice in a better way or outperform male doctors", says the JAMA study's first author, Yusuke Tsugawa, an assistant professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles. Women are less likely to survive in the years following a heart attack and it could be because of how they are treated. "A male physician sees a female physician treat a female patient successfully, and sees potential cues". "I would hope that in reading this leaders in emergency medicine-whether directors or department chairs-would consider that we are an asset beyond being a diverse workforce".

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