Women heart attack sufferers face longer hospital delays than men, says new study

September 12, 2005

Women who suffer heart attacks wait longer to be assessed, admitted and receive treatment than men with the same condition, according to a paper in the latest Journal of Advanced Nursing.

890 patients admitted to coronary care units via casualty departments in six major teaching hospitals in Dublin were studied in detail by a team led by Dr Sharon O'Donnell from the City's Trinity College.

The study of 613 men and 277 women shows that:

"Treatment delays experienced by women may limit their potential to achieve maximum benefit from reperfusion therapies, which have been clinically proven to work more effectively when administered early" says Dr O'Donnell.

"This could result in women being exposed to a greater rate of life-threatening complications and less favourable outcomes than their male counterparts.

"The image of the typical male heart attack victim must be corrected in the minds of triage nurses - who carry out initial assessments in casualty departments - and other healthcare staff.

"Better healthcare training and clinical awareness are needed if women who have heart attacks are to receive the same care as men."

Approximately 120 nurses working across the six coronary care units in Dublin, Southern Ireland, took part in the study, completing a 25-item questionnaire for each patient admitted during the one-year study.

The questionnaire used was designed with input from a panel of experts and tested out during two pilot studies.

Only patients who were admitted via the hospitals' casualty departments, who had a confirmed diagnosis of Myocardial Infarction (heart attack) and who were sent to the hospitals' coronary care units were included in the study.

"Our findings do not give reasons for assessment or treatment delays, but they do present factual yet unexplained accounts of the differences experienced by male and female patients" adds Dr O'Donnell.

"We accept that certain Myocardial Infarction presentations are more difficult to assess and that practical, everyday resources and funding issues may exacerbate treatment and decision-making delays.

"However this study does raise important concerns about equitable healthcare practice and we hope that it will prompt further investigation and discussion, particularly on the issues surrounding women who suffer heart attacks."

The research was funded by the Ireland's Health Research Board.
-end-
For further details or a copy of the full paper contact Annette Whibley, Wizard Communications at wordwizard@clara.co.uk

To interview lead author Sharon O'Donnell contact Sally-Anne Fisher, Trinity College on (00) 353 1 608 3606 or fishers@tcd.ie

Notes to editors

Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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