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Women heart patients given poorer treatment

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Female heart failure patients admitted as emergencies are significantly less likely than men to receive the recommended investigations and treatments, according to a large UK survey.

Female heart failure patients admitted as emergencies are significantly less likely than men to receive the recommended investigations and treatments, according to a large UK survey.

Researchers analysed the data of nearly 9,500 heart failure patients. All were admitted as emergencies to 176 acute trusts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland over a six-month period. Around half were women.

Women were less likely than men to receive investigations such as an echocardiogram, which was recommended for all suspected heart failure patients by NICE in July 2003.

They were also less likely to receive drugs like ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers. After leaving hospital, women were much less likely to receive treatment, with the exception of diuretics, to prevent their heart failure deteriorating.

Study author Martin Cowie, professor of cardiology at Imperial College London, said: ‘Women are getting a worse deal than their male counterparts. There is a general perception that women are less likely to have heart problems and, if they do, they are less likely to be as serious as they are in a man.’

He said heart failure symptoms in women needed to be taken as seriously and treated as aggressively as they would be in men.

Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, added: ‘Women tend to develop heart failure later than men, which may explain why their passage through the health service is different. However, medical decisions based primarily on gender or age, and not clinical effectiveness, have no place in a 21st-century NHS.’

The authors found only 20% of patients were given an appointment to see a specialist and fewer than 1% were referred for cardiac rehabilitation or specialist palliative care.

Heart (2007) heart.bmj.com

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