Women with Chest Pain Get Less Care Than Men

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Woman with chest pain

Researchers are not entirely sure why women with chest pain are not getting the same recommended care as men, but a new study suggests there are disparities. Men traditionally receive aspirin and nitroglycerin en route to the hospital. A review of statistics shows that women with the same symptoms of chest pain are getting less care compared to men.

The findings have widespread implications for women with chest pain who may be experiencing heart attack. Women present with different symptoms than men during heart attack, a factor that may be contributing to the findings that EMS personnel treat women with chest pain differently.

The findings come from the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine. Zachary Mesiel, MD, MPH, an emergency physician and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar and Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at Penn says, "Women with heart attacks have higher death rates than men, so these findings are very concerning, and it's important for us to try to figure out why this is happening.” Dr. Mesiel says EMS personnel should provide the same care to all patients with chest pain, yet fewer women are treated the same as men.


Comparisons between men and women treated for chest pain revealed that only twenty-four percent of women, versus thirty-two percent of men were likely to received aspirin from EMS personnel, showing that women are not getting the same care as men for chest pain. The study examined 683 cases in 2006 and 2007 of patients transported to one of three Philadelphia hospitals in the University of Pennsylvania Health System with complaints of chest pain. Additionally, twenty-six percent of women, compared to thirty-three percent of men received nitroglycerin. Starting an intravenous line as part of chest pain protocol occurred sixty-one percent of the time for women, but seventy-percent of the time for men, another finding showing that women with chest pain are treated differently than men.

Alarmingly, none of the women who really were having chest pain related to heart attack had received aspirin before arrival to the hospital. Sorting through the reasons only showed there really are disparities related to gender. No association was found between risk factors, gender of EMS personnel, or age, or race to explain why women with chest pain do not receive the same treatment as men.

Dr. Mesiel suggests that women with chest pain need to be very clear about their symptoms, even if it means repeating yourself. He suggests that perhaps women and healthcare providers both interpret chest pain in women differently, leading to the disparity between how women with chest pain are treated, compared to men.

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine



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