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Research says doctor's gender may hinder early diagnosis of heart disease in women
Date:9/5/2007

There is a serious disparity in the early detection of coronary heart disease (CHD) between men and women. Twice as many women as men aged 45-64 have undetected or silent myocardial infarctions, suggesting a general diagnosis problem. New research by Warwick Medical School shows that a doctors gender may hinder early hinder early diagnosis of heart disease in women.

The researchers, led by Dr Ann Adams of Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick, used data from a large UK/US study to analyse the decision-making processes of 112 primary care doctors (56 from the US and 56 English) split equally male/female. The doctors were shown videotapes of actors portraying patients with CHD. The patient actors, aged 55 years and 75 years, presented case histories that all contained a high number of the most significant symptoms that are universally recognized as being strongly suggestive of CHD. Despite the fact that all the patients gave case histories that should have resulted in a clear diagnosis of CHD, the results showed that doctors were significantly less certain about the diagnosis amongst women, particularly the 55 year olds, and also differences in how male and female doctors judged the cases of male and female patients.

The key finding in the research was how the doctors approached the issue of patient age. Increasing age is known to be an important risk factor for CHD amongst both men and women. However many of the doctors in the study showed a clear bias in favour of male patients when considering age as a diagnostic factor. This bias was even more pronounced amongst female doctors.

When considering the accounts of all the doctors in the study, the researchers found that 81% of doctors said they took note of age as a diagnostic factor for the male video patients they saw, but only mentioned it as a diagnostic factor for 63% of the female patients. Amongst female doctors the difference was more pronounced, as they reporte
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Contact: Dr. Ann Adams
a.e.adams@warwick.ac.uk
44-024-765-73956
University of Warwick
Source:Eurekalert

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