Women more likely to die of heart attack with a male doctor

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

"The most important thing that readers might want to take from our study is the difference in heart attack symptoms across men and women", Carnahan said.

Women are more likely to survive heart attacks if treated by women physicians in the emergency room, a new study that reviewed about half a million patients over more than 20 years found.

The results show that both men and women have better outcomes for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) when treated by a female physician, but that the biggest difference between male and female physicians is in outcomes for women.

Even after taking these factors into account, they found that female patients were less likely to survive heart attacks than male patients.

In this study, women heart attack patients were found to be more likely to survive if they were treated by women doctors, according to the team of researchers at Olin Business School at Washington University, Harvard Business School and Carlson School of Management at University of Minnesota Business School. "If male physicians had the same outcomes as female physicians, we'd have 32,000 fewer deaths in the Medicare population", Jha wrote.

"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", the team said.

This study offers a new explanation for why gender inequality in heart attack mortality persists. A review of almost 582,000 heart attack cases over 19 years showed female patients had a significantly higher survival rate when treated by a woman, as opposed to a man. This could help them to pick up on heart attacks, even if women have more atypical symptoms.

But "the penalty for being female is greater" when women are treated by male physicians, says Greenwood.

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However, for patients treated by male physicians, the gender gap in survival more than tripled to 0.7 percent.

For both men and women, the same advice on preventing heart attacks applies - and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 80 percent of heart disease, especially heart attacks, can be avoided by modifying lifestyle behavior.

It can not prove it was the presence of female doctors that caused the improved survival rates.

"What is convincing is that we have to do better in terms of caring for women with cardiovascular disease - all of us", Dr. Jha said.

Female doctors may also simply be performing at least some parts of the job better than their male counterparts do. Maybe they're directly teaching their male colleagues how to diagnose or treat women with heart attacks.

The reason has eluded researchers for years, but the authors of the new study point to the disparity in male and female representation in emergency doctors as a potential source of answers.

Independent experts said more work was needed to see if the findings applied to United Kingdom hospitals. "These findings suggest that female physicians are an asset not just for their patients, but for their male colleagues, too".

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