When young women land in the emergency room with chest pain, they wait longer and get less treatment than their male counterparts, a preliminary study finds.
Using a federal survey of U.S. hospitals, researchers found that younger women with chest pain were treated less urgently than men their age. That included a lower likelihood of receiving standard tests for diagnosing a heart attack.
Chest pain can have a range of causes, including minor issues like muscle strain and acid reflux.
But it’s also the most common symptom of heart attack in both women and men, said study co-author Dr. Harmony Reynolds, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City.
It’s not clear why young women were treated differently for their chest pain. But implicit biases on the part of some medical professionals could be at work, Reynolds said. The old stereotype that heart attack is a “man’s disease” still persists.
The study is far from the first to uncover a gender gap in heart attack treatment. Others have shown that women get fewer of the recommended medications for post-heart attack care, and face a higher risk of dying within a few years of a heart attack.