Women who suffer from heart attacks may be at a higher risk of death in the emergency room if they see a male physician rather than a female one, a new study suggests. The study doesn't jump to conclusions, but doctors and cardiologists have a few theories. There could be a systematic bias where male physicians are not listening to female patients' complaints as readily as [those of] a man, or there could be a bias that favors men in the medical literature, leading to misdiagnoses in women. It may also be that female doctors do a better job than their male counterparts. "In the new study everyone was more likely to survive if they saw a female physician, and a study published last year [...] indicated all patients of female physicians had lower mortality and hospital readmission rates," reports Scientific American. From the report: Heart disease is the number-one killer of both men and women, but the latter are significantly less likely to survive heart attacks. According to 2016 American Heart Association statement, 26 percent of women will die within a year of a heart attack compared with just 19 percent of men. The gap widens with time: By five years after a heart attack almost half of women die, compared with 36 percent of men. The reason has eluded researchers for years, but the authors of the new study point to the disparity in male and female representation in emergency doctors as a potential source of answers. The researchers analyzed a Florida Agency for Health Care Administration database containing every heart attack case from every ER in the state (excluding Veterans Affairs hospitals) between 1991 and 2010. The researchers divided 500,000-plus cases into four categories: male doctors treating men; male doctors treating women; female doctors treating men; and female doctors treating women. "All of those are statistically indistinguishable except for male doctor -- female patient," says Brad Greenwood, an author on the study and a data scientist at the University of Minnesota. If a heart attack patient is a woman and her emergency physician is a man, he says, her risk of death suddenly rises by about 12 percent. Put another way, a heart attack patient dies in the ER about 11.9 percent of the time overall -- but the research team found women with heart attacks will die about 12.4 percent of the time if their cases are handled by male doctors. This means approximately one out of every 66 women with heart attacks dies in the emergency room if she sees a male doctor rather than a female one.
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