The American College of Cardiology last month revised its treatment guidelines to recommend that doctors be more cautious about subjecting women at low risk of heart disease to invasive procedures.
According to the AP/Courant, an example of increased caution would be a physician waiting to see if further symptoms develop in a woman with a clogged artery rather than performing an angioplasty, which involves inflating a tiny balloon in the clogged vessel. Guidelines in Europe for treating heart disease are usually the same for men and women, the AP/Courant reports.
Eva Swahn of the department of cardiology at University Hospital in Linkoping, Sweden, on Monday presented a study of 184 women with heart conditions. The women were divided into two equal groups: one in which the women underwent an invasive procedure -- such as a coronary bypass surgery or an angioplasty -- and a second group in which women waited until further symptoms developed.
Eight of the women who underwent an invasive procedure died after one year, compared with one death in the group of women who waited for further diagnosis.
According to the AP/Courant, physicians are not sure what accounts for the differences. Women typically have smaller hearts and vessels, which can complicate procedures that require instruments such as catheters.
Women also tend to have more side effects from medicines, and hormones also might be factors. In addition, women are usually about 10 years older than men when they develop heart conditions, so other health problems linked to old age could also increase their risk of heart surgery complications, the AP/Courant reports.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation