Female heart attack victims more likely to survive if treated by a female doctor

According to a major new U.S. study, women who have heart attacks are more likely to survive if they are treated by a female doctor.

The study looks at 580,000 cases of heart attacks over the last 19 years. Of these, the researchers noted that 13.3 percent had died when treated by men compared to 12 percent who were being treated by a female doctor. Survival rates improved when the patients were treated by a male doctor who had more number of female colleagues on his team.

Image Credit: Kzenon / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Kzenon / Shutterstock

The researchers write that men doctors could be faring badly while treating female patients. More studies are necessary before this can be claimed as a fact however, they add. The study results appear in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This pool of patient data comes from the Florida hospitals between 1991 and 2010. All patient details including age, race, medical history etc. were taken into account. Results showed that female doctors seemed to have a better patient outcome than male doctors but the results were significantly larger when these female doctors were treating female patients.

Results showed;

  • Men doctors lost 12.6 percent male patients and 13.3 percent female patients
  • Women doctors lost 11.6 percent male patients and 12 percent female patients

According to lead researcher Dr Seth Carnahan, from Washington University, in St Louis this study reiterates the fact the female doctors tend to have better patient outcomes compared to their male colleagues. He added that the results are striking when it comes to a female patient. One of the reasons behind this could be the fact that heart disease has been taught as a condition that predominantly affected men.

There have been similar studies from UK, Australia and Sweden. It has been seen that patients in Australia and Sweden tend to be treated differently based on their gender. In the UK for example women with heart disease are more commonly misdiagnosed.

According to co-author Dr Brad Greenwood, associate professor of information and decision sciences at the University of Minnesota, “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.” Female patients presenting to the accident and emergency department with a heart attack also fare better when they are cared for by female doctors he said. This could be because female doctors could be sharing their experience while treating a female with heart attack symptoms. Also female patients could be sharing their symptoms more with female doctors and chances of being diagnosed correctly increase speculate the authors.

The authors note, “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.” They recommend that the emergency departments should have more female doctors. They also suggest that doctors need to be trained more rigorously to ensure that they do not assume heart disease to be predominantly a condition affecting males.

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