Swedish women receive “second rate” cardiac care

Fears that female heart attack patients in Sweden are receiving second rate medical care have now been confirmed by a study conducted at Linköping University hospital.

Doctor Sofia Sederholm Lawesson investigated the care of 27,000 cardiac patients who presented at Casualty from 1997 to 2002 with severe and acute cardiac trauma. Her research points to huge failures in the care of women.

“Women don’t present with the same symptoms as men. They often don’t express that they have chest pains. They often say ‘there is something on the breast’ and that they are out of breath, feeling nauseous, and generally have more diffuse complaints,” explained Karin Schenck-Gustafsson to SvD.

Statistics show that women with cardiac complaints are twice as likely to die in hospital as men. Some of this can be explained by what is often a more stoic attitude to suffering, and the fact that women are usually five to six years older when they suffer a heart attack and often have other illnesses too.

Women also tend to wait about an hour longer than men before presenting to casualty. But that is compounded by the treatment they get when the eventually arrive at hospital.

According Sofia Sederholm Lawesson’s findings, women receive second rate care in major areas: they are examined less thoroughly than men, they receive lower doses of medication, it takes longer for a woman to be diagnosed, and women cardiac patients have to wait an average of ten minutes longer than men before being taken to the cardiac intensive care unit.

Here they fail to receive, at least as quickly as men, acute clot reducing medication and cardiac catheterization. Women are also being described an inferior quality of medication for angina or minor heart attacks.

Sofia Sederholm Lawesson said she believes that the myth that heart attack is a male illness persists in the care sector.

Doctors are also not trained in recognising women’s cardiac arrest symptoms that are more diffuse than men.

“Women must be taken more seriously when they arrive at A&E,” she told Dagens Medicin.

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, Dagens Medicin