Medicine

Female heart attack patients likely to survive if treated by women doctors

Female heart attack patients likely to survive if treated by women doctors

The team also found that survival rates for women rose as the percentage of female doctors working in the accident and emergency unit increased, especially if the physician in charge was male.

'Our work corroborates prior research showing that female doctors tend to produce better patient outcomes than male doctors, ' said Seth Carnahan, a co-author of the study from Washington University in St Louis.

During the almost two-decade study timeframe, roughly 1.3 million heart attacks occurred among Florida's 20 million residents.

"We find that gender concordance increases a patient's probability of surviving a [heart attack] and that the effect is driven by increased mortality when male physicians treat female patients", said Dr Brad Greenwood, associate professor of information and decision sciences at the University of Minnesota.

Using data on 582,000 heart attack patients admitted to Florida emergency rooms from 1991 to 2010, researchers found that women treated by male doctors were 1.5% less likely to survive than males treated by female doctors. Finding these differences are important because a large body of research shows that women are less likely to survive heart attacks, in general.

"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 write.

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And the research showed that the gender gap for patients treated by female physicians was only about 0.2 percent: 11.8 percent of men died, versus about 12 percent of women. Overall, 12 per cent of patients died.

When patients were treated by male doctors, 12.6% of men died compared with 13.3% of women. "Getting to an ER in a timely fashion is likely to matter more than the gender of one's physician". Or there could be a bias that favors men in the medical literature (in which heart attacks are better understood when they happen in men), leading to misdiagnoses in women. Both sexes experience chest pain and discomfort commonly associated with a heart attack, women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back or jaw pain. Furthermore, heart attacks can often present differently in men and woman.

Another variable they cite, omitted in this study, is the previous finding by other researchers that female physicians tend to perform better than male physicians across a wide variety of ailments.

The authors say their work calls on the importance of having a greater representation of female doctors in the medical field. For one thing, doctors may not be spending the time to realize that men and women may have different symptoms, and women may have more subtle symptoms, she said. "It could be you have spillover between physicians", he says. Or you have assistance: "A female colleague cues him into what's going on".

Women suffering heart attacks in hospital emergency rooms in the United States are more likely to die if their doctor is a man than a woman, warned a study Monday. "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".