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Doctors much more likely to miss heart attacks in women

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Staff Writer | August 31, 2016
Women have a 50 percent higher chance than men of receiving the wrong initial diagnosis following a heart attack, according to a new study by the University of Leeds.
Woman heart attack
Gender   The two main types of heart attack are STEMI and NSTEMI
Using the UK national heart attack register MINAP2, researchers found that overall, almost one-third (29.9 percent) of patients had an initial diagnosis which differed from their final diagnosis.

The two main types of heart attack are STEMI and NSTEMI. STEMI occurs when there's a total blockage of the main artery that pumps oxygenated blood around the body. NSTEMI, which is more common, is a partial blockage of one or more arteries. Both result in serious damage to the heart muscle.

This research found that women who had a final diagnosis of STEMI had a 59 percent greater chance of a misdiagnosis compared with men.

Women who had a final diagnosis of NSTEMI had a 41 percent greater chance of a misdiagnosis when compared with men.

Receiving a quick diagnosis and getting the correct treatment after a heart attack is paramount to ensure the best possible recovery, the researchers said.

The initial diagnosis is vital as it shapes treatment in the short-term, and sometimes in the long-term. Women who were misdiagnosed had about a 70 percent increased risk of death after 30 days compared with those who had received a consistent diagnosis. The same was the case for men.

The study, published in the European Heart Journal Acute Cardiovascular Care, looked at nearly 600,000 heart attack patients over the course of nine years.

Between April 2004 and March 2013, the researchers studied 243 NHS hospitals in England and Wales that provided care for patients between the ages of 18 – 100 at the time of hospitalisation. The number of patients who were initially misdiagnosed was 198,534.

The British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the research, is urging both the public and health care professionals to be more aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, to avoid mistakes being made in diagnosis.

The BHF also say more research is needed to further improve tests for diagnosing heart attacks in both men and women.