Sexism in medical treatment?
From heart failure to an irregular heartbeat, implantable heart devices can save lives. But a recent study shows that not everyone is benefiting from them.
With a growing, aging population, doctors are seeing more heart failure patients than ever before. Implantable heart devices, such as pacemakers, defibrillators, and cardiac resynchronization therapy are helping these patients live regular lives. But a study at the Cleveland Clinic has found that women were 30 percent less likely than men to receive an implantable device even though …
Niraj Varma, MD, with the Cleveland Clinic, says, “The data from our study showed was that the survival benefit from defibrillator therapy was absolutely identical for men and women.”
And the survival rate for women who received cardiac resynchronization therapy was 30 percent better than men. So why are women not getting these life-saving treatments?
Dr. Varma continued, “It’s been known for a long time that women are generally underrepresented in clinical trials.”
And less representation in trials means less treatment options for women. Dr. Varma also says that women are not referred as much for these devices as compared to men and heart failure in women may present itself differently than in men.
“Each step of the way, there’s a potential roadblock to women finally coming and receiving a device from us. So this is an issue,” said Dr. Varma.
An issue that he believes can be solved if both doctors and patients identify and characterize the sex differences between men and women with these devices so the therapy can be more precise.
Dr. Varma also says it’s important for women to be more open with their doctors. Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain. Instead of chest pain, they may experience neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal pain.