Study Suggests Female Doctors Are Best For Female Heart Attack Patients

Science | By Julio Childress | August 10, 2018

When we think about heart attacks, we often think about it as a health issue that mainly affects men, specifically older men in their forties or above. Even when we consider younger demographics, it is still men who are in our minds, such as young, male athletes who suffer from heart attacks.

The truth is that heart attacks affect both men and women of all ages, although they tend to affect older men more often. When the demographic affected by a certain disease are over represented by one group, it can make it difficult to effectively treat across all demographics, because the natural inclination would be to focus on treatment for the main demographic affected.

This is why it's important to note what key differences could ensure a higher survival rate for certain conditions. In this case, we're talking about heart attacks. A recent analysis is suggesting that female doctors could be the best hope for female heart attack patients. Read on to find out more.

The Basis of the Study

Researchers were interested in seeing the difference between survival rates for men and women who suffer from heart attacks. Survival rates weren't the only piece of data looked at. The main point of data they explored was whether or not survival rates increased for women when they were treated by a female doctor. As for why this would be the case is more difficult to determine, though we will discuss that later in the article.

The research was done using data between the years of 1991 and 2010, a 19 year spread. The data was taken anonymously from Florida hospitals. Although this sample size is very geographically specific, the research could be duplicated in other areas if value is found in the results, so long as the hospitals are willing and able to share their data.

The Results of the Study

As stated, the study used date over nineteen years from 1991 to 2010. This data was comprised of the results 580,000 different heart attack victims. The results they found are very interesting in terms of their impact on women's health specifically. When looking at the mortality rates for women following a heart attack, the mortality rate was 1.3% higher when a female patient was treated by a male doctor: 13.3% as a whole. Comparatively, women who were treated by a female doctor has a 12% mortality rate.

The mortality rates for women lower even more in the case where a male doctor had a team of female colleagues working with them. Two apparent suggestions from this research are that one, women are more adept at treating women, or two, that women are more comfortable when operated on by a woman, though these are not definitive theories, nor the only ones one could postulate.

What to Make of the Results?

Dr. Seth Carnahan, the lead scientist at Washington University had this to say regarding the results: "the novel part of what we're doing is showing that the benefit of having a female doctor is particularly stark for a female patient." One reason this could be happening is due to doctors being trained with men in mind when it comes to heart attacks. This would leave a blind spot when treating women.

Maureen Talbot of the British Heart Foundation had this to say: "While this study supports this theory, more research is needed in UK hospitals to see if the bias exists here. It's important that we better understand what is causing this variation in care. And the BHF is already funding research into how we can improve the outcomes of women who have a heart attack."



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