advertisement
Updated 17 September 2013

Heart disease often misdiagnosed in women

When it comes to heart attacks, women have a greater risk of being misdiagnosed in the emergency department, as many do not experience chest pains.

1

Women with the heart condition known as acute coronary syndrome are less likely to have chest pain than men, which could raise their risk of misdiagnosis, a new study finds.

Acute coronary syndrome, which includes unstable angina and heart attack, is an umbrella term for conditions where blood supply to the heart muscle is suddenly blocked, according to the American Heart Association.

Chest pain is a classic symptom of acute coronary syndrome, but as many as 35% of patients do not report chest pain. These patients are more likely to be misdiagnosed in the emergency department and have a higher risk of death compared to patients who report chest pain, the study authors explained.

The researchers looked at about 1 000 patients, aged 55 and younger, who were hospitalised for acute coronary syndrome. The midpoint age of the patients was 49, and 30% were women.

Chest pain was reported by 80% of patients, but women were more likely than men to not have chest pain, 19% versus 13.7%.

Common symptoms

For both sexes, the most common symptoms besides chest pain were weakness, feeling hot, shortness of breath, cold sweat and pain in the left arm or shoulder. Among patients without chest pain, women had more of these other symptoms than men, according to the study published online Sept. 16 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

"The most significant findings in this study were that chest pain was the most predominant symptom of [acute coronary syndrome] in both men and women 55 years or younger," regardless of syndrome type, wrote Dr Nadia Khan, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and colleagues.

But, they added, "women had a higher likelihood of presenting without chest pain than men. Most women and men who presented without chest pain, however, reported at least one other non-chest pain symptom, such as shortness of breath or weakness."

The reasons for the sex differences in acute coronary syndrome symptoms was not clear, the study authors noted in a journal news release.

"Our findings indicate that chest pain is the predominant symptom that should direct diagnostic evaluation for [acute coronary syndrome]," the researchers noted. "However, health care providers should still maintain a high degree of suspicion for [acute coronary syndrome] in young patients, particularly women, given that one in five women with diagnosed [acute coronary syndrome] do not report with chest pain."

More information

The American Heart Association has more about acute coronary syndrome.

Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

 
advertisement

Get a quote

advertisement

Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Live healthier

Winter Wellness »

Boost winter health Happy feet in winter Don’t become a winter blimp

Tips to stay fit and healthy in winter

When it's cold it's easy to pick up the coughs and sniffles, and it's even easier to indulge in comfort foods. Don't !

Vitamin wise »

Vitamins for HIV What to eat for vitamin B? Cut down on vitamins

Get your vitamins right

Find out which vitamin to use for which condition. Ask our Vitamin expert.