Women who suffer a heart attack are twice at risk of dying within the following month because they receive different medical treatment than men, researchers said Tuesday.
The study examined 3,000 women and men hospitalized in the French region of Franche-Comte after a cardiac event between 2006 and 2007, and examined the treatment they received.
It found women were less likely to receive either an angiogram -- an imaging technique that allows examination of the blood vessels -- or an angioplasty, where a coronary artery is dilated, and often a small stent is inserted to keep the artery open.
The lead author of the study said its findings showed women should be given the more aggressive treatments often reserved for male patients.
"This suggests that we could reduce mortality in female patients by using more invasive procedures," said Francois Schiele, head of cardiology at the Besancon university hospital, speaking on the sidelines of an annual conference of the American College of Cardiology in Atlanta.
"When there are no clear contradictions, women should be treated with all recommended strategies, including invasive strategies," he added.
"The main question we tried to answer with this study was whether the difference in mortality between women and men after a heart attack is explained by differences in management," Schiele said.
He acknowledged that there were physiological differences between men and women that needed to be taken into account when recommending patients of both genders receive the same treatment, citing the example of angioplasties.
"We look for big, straight arteries and with women we get winding, small arteries," he said.
But he stressed that stents can be inserted into the arteries of female patients, and function perfectly well, as long as the surgeon is properly trained to handle the procedure.
Marcelo Di Carli, director of cardiovascular imaging at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said the study came amid increasing awareness about women's health.
"Just about every major hospital in the United States has a program on women's health," he said. "Things are changing in a positive way because there's so much research going on."