Study Reveals Gender Bias in Treatment of Heart Disease

Men suffering from heart disease are 2-3 times more likely to receive life-saving implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) than women with the disease, a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found. Researchers for the study, who examined the medical files of 236,084 Medicare beneficiaries, also found that African Americans were 30% less likely than white patients to receive the devices.

ICDs prevent sudden cardiac death, the leading cause of death in the United States, by shocking a distressed heart back into a normal rhythm, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Although cardiac arrest occurs more often in men than women, the gender gap narrows with age and disappears after age 85, according to JAMA.

Overall, more women than men die of heart disease in the United States each year. Nonetheless, women only receive 33% of angioplasties, stents and bypass surgeries; 36% of open-heart surgeries; and comprise only 25% of participants in heart-related studies, according to the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.


Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol 298, No. 13; ScienceDaily 10/3/07; USA Today 10/4/07; Women and Heart Disease Fact Sheet, National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease

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