Women With Heart Conditions Might Need Different Treatments Than Men

Armen Hareyan's picture

With Heart Conditions

Researchers at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiologyin Vienna, Austria, on Monday said that women with heart conditionsmight need different treatments than men and that the issue needs to bestudied further, the AP/Hartford Courant reports.

The American College of Cardiologylast month revised its treatment guidelines to recommend that doctorsbe more cautious about subjecting women at low risk of heart disease toinvasive procedures. According to the AP/Courant, anexample of increased caution would be a physician waiting to see iffurther symptoms develop in a woman with a clogged artery rather thanperforming an angioplasty, which involves inflating a tiny balloon inthe clogged vessel. Guidelines in Europe for treating heart disease areusually the same for men and women, the AP/Courant reports.


EvaSwahn of the department of cardiology at University Hospital inLinkoping, Sweden, on Monday presented a study of 184 women with heartconditions. The women were divided into two equal groups: one in whichthe women underwent an invasive procedure -- such as a coronary bypasssurgery or an angioplasty -- and a second group in which women waiteduntil further symptoms developed. Eight of the women who underwent aninvasive procedure died after one year, compared with one death in thegroup of women who waited for further diagnosis.

According to the AP/Courant,physicians are not sure what accounts for the differences. Womentypically have smaller hearts and vessels, which can complicateprocedures that require instruments such as catheters. Women also tendto have more side effects from medicines, and hormones also might befactors. In addition, women are usually about 10 years older than menwhen they develop heart conditions, so other health problems linked toold age could also increase their risk of heart surgery complications,the AP/Courant reports.


"There is a big question mark over why this is happening," Swahn -- whoconsults for some pharmaceutical companies and is writing a book for AstraZeneca-- said, adding, "We want there to be equality between the genders, butthat doesn't mean that women and men should get the same treatment."Swahn's study was part of a larger study funded by pharmaceuticalcompanies Sanofi-Aventis and GlaxoSmithKline.

Someexperts said no definitive conclusions can be taken from Swahn's studybut added that gender differences in heart treatments should be studiedfurther. "We have had hints in the past that women don't respond totreatment in exactly the same way as men," Christopher Cannon, anassociate professor of medicine at Harvard University and spokesperson for ACC, said. Cannon was not associated with Swahn's research (Cheng, AP/Hartford Courant, 9/3).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyWomen's Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for emaildelivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.