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Women Fare WorseThan Men When It Comes to Treatment of Heart Disease

May 12, 2011

Female heart attack patients are less likely to receive surgical intervention and there is a 30% higher death rate among those who do.

A study released by HealthGrades, the nation’s leading, independent source of physician information and hospital quality ratings, found notable disparities in the treatment and outcomes of male and female patients at U.S. hospitals. The most significant differences identified were in the area of cardiovascular care, with only one-third of female heart attack patients receiving life-saving surgical interventions compared to nearly half of male patients. Of those women who did undergo heart surgery or angioplasty, HealthGrades found a 30% higher death rate compared to men. 

The findings are based on an analysis of more than five million Medicare patient records from 2007 to 2009 and focused on 16 of the most common procedures and diagnoses among women. HealthGrades Women’s Health in American Hospitals report also identified those hospitals performing in the top 5% nationwide for women’s health.

Dr. Rick May, report co-author and HealthGrades Vice President of clinical quality services, stated that, “Much work remains to be done to better understand the differences between men’s and women’s health. But many providers are successfully implementing systems of care to more accurately diagnose and treat disease in women.” “Women have a choice when it comes to where they seek medical care. The HealthGrades Women’s Health Excellence Award recipient hospitals have set an example in providing superior care to the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters in their communities.”

HealthGrades encourages women of all ages to educate themselves about their bodies, health and lifestyle changes proven to reduce the risk of serious, chronic disease. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in America, surpassing all forms of cancer combined. HealthGrades Women’s Health in American Hospitals includes detailed information on how to recognize the risks and symptoms of this deadly disease and take pro-active steps to fight it.

Key findings of the HealthGrades report include:

  • Compared to those treated at poor-performing hospitals, female patients at Women’s Health Excellence Award hospitals had a 40.56% lower risk-adjusted mortality across nine cardiac, pulmonary and vascular-based diagnoses and procedures and a 16.13% lower risk-adjusted rate of complications across five orthopedic procedures.
  • An additional 41,025 women over the age of 65 could have potentially survived their hospitalization and 8,558 could have avoided a major complication if all hospitals had performed at the level of HealthGrades Women’s Health Excellence Award recipient hospitals.
  • For treatment of heart attack in 2009, only one-third of women received a cardiac surgical intervention compared to almost half of men (33.5% and 45.6%, respectively).
  • Among heart attack patients receiving a cardiac intervention, such as coronary bypass surgery or angioplasty, women had a 30% higher death rate compared to men.
  • Women make up a higher percentage of admissions for hip fracture repair than men; this has remained unchanged from 2005 to 2009 (74% for women, 26% for men).

In this analysis, HealthGrades independently and objectively analyzed Medicare patient records from fiscal years 2007 through 2009. To be included in the analysis, hospitals must have met minimum thresholds in terms of patient volumes, quality ratings, and the range of services provided. Individuals may compare their local hospitals online at HealthGrades’ hospital ratings are independently created; no hospital can opt in or opt out of being rated, and no hospital pays to be rated.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2011