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Life-Saving Procedures Used Less Often in Women with Cardiac Arrest

NEW YORK – Women treated for cardiac arrest in a hospital setting are less likely to survive, possibly because they also receive fewer potentially life-saving procedures, according to a new study.

Angiography and angioplasty are both used less often in women with the emergency condition, according to new research in Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

The Weill Cornell Medical College-led study notes that procedures such as those have helped increase cardiac arrest survival rates overall. "But the troublesome part of our paper is that just as with many other treatments, we're still not doing as good a job with women as men. Women tend to get less immediate care when time is essential,” said lead author Luke Kim, MD.

The study is touted as the first to report sex-based disparities across a representative spectrum of cardiac arrest patients from more than 1,000 U.S. hospitals nationally. Over the decade-long study, in-hospital death rates fell for both sexes, but remained higher for women – 64% for women vs. 61% for men.

For the study, researchers using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample analyzed more than 1.4 million cases in which cardiac arrest patients were transported alive to acute-care hospitals from 2003 through 2012, during which the number of cardiac arrests increased by 14%.

After adjusting for factors including patient age, health, hospital characteristics, and previous cardiac procedures, researchers also found that women who had a cardiac arrest from a shockable rhythm were:

  • 25% less likely to receive coronary angiography;
  • 29% less likely to have angioplasty, also known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI);
  • 19% less likely to be treated with therapeutic hypothermia.

Women in the study group were older than the men and were less likely to have been previously diagnosed with coronary artery disease. They also were more likely to have such comorbidities as congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, obesity, and other issues, and to have cardiac arrest caused by problems other than a blood vessel blockage, such as pulmonary embolism.