Women survive heart attacks better with women doctors

Almost 12 percent of patients die when rushed for emergency treatment for a heart attack

Women who suffer a heart attack have a higher chance of survival if they are treated by a female doctor, according to a USA study.

Those mitigating factors "suggest that having training programs that are more gender neutral, or showing how men and women might present symptoms differently, could improve outcomes for female patients", Carnahan said. "The fact that gender concordance (that is, men treating men or women treating women) correlates with whether a patient survives a heart attack has implications for theory and practice".

Studies have shown that diagnosing the symptoms of a heart attack is more hard to do in women.

The study confirms what years of research on "gender concordance" have shown - that matching the gender of the doctor and patient can lead to better health outcomes. The gap widens with time: By five years after a heart attack nearly half of women die, compared with 36 percent of men.

When patients were treated by male doctors, 12.6% of men died compared with 13.3% of women - a difference of 0.7%.

Huang, a professor of organizational psychology at Harvard Business School told The Atlantic: "There are inequalities in a lot of different contexts, but when someone is suffering from a heart attack, you might expect that there would be no gender differences because every physician will go in trying to save their patient's life".

"For example, a propensity among women to delay seeking treatment and the presentation of symptoms that differ from those of men".

Researchers scrutinising data from almost 582,000 heart attack patients found that women treated by male doctors were 1.52 per cent less likely to survive than men treated by female doctors, according to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Namely, when women were treated by female doctors, "there was a significant and positive effect" on survival, said the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Or is it because most doctors are male, and not enough women are diagnosing heart attacks in female patients?

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.

That doesn't mean we can only be healthy if our doctor looks just like us. It's important that we better understand what is causing this variation in care, and the BHF is already funding research in to how we can improve the outcomes of women who have a heart attack.

But when female physicians took charge of treatment, those percentages fell - to 11.8% of men and 12% of women.

Female doctors may also simply be performing at least some parts of the job better than their male counterparts do.

And because heart attacks come about suddenly, patients are rarely able to choose their doctor - or his or her gender - when entering an emergency department.

Researchers believe that male doctors are more likely to miss danger signs in women who are admitted to casualty.

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