Gender inequality doesn’t just happen in the workplace. It turns out it’s rampant in the emergency room, too.
Cardiovascular disease is currently the leading cause of death in women in the US, and 1 million females each year suffer from a variety of severe heart attack called STEMI (ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction), which is caused by a blockage of one’s blood supply to the heart. Women with STEMI are also more likely to die from a heart attack than men with STEMI. But researchers have found that this doesn’t have to be the case.
Cleveland Clinic, a world-renowned multispecialty hospital, has sought to fix this gender disparity by implementing the same four-step protocol for male and female patients suffering from the most severe heart attacks. The protocol has ended up reducing mortality across the board.
“It was assumed that women are higher-risk, and so delays in treatment and higher complications are inevitable ,” says Umesh Khot, vice chairman of cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic, who published the results of the study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology this month.
Khot tells The Post that women with STEMI tend to be older and look “sicker” than men who have the disease — meaning that doctors believe they will be harder to save than men. “So when [women] do show up [in the emergency room], they get less than ideal care,” he says.
Examples include having to wait longer for care or for any kind of coronary intervention, and receiving lower rates of aspirin and other medications than men do in a 24-hour period.
For the Cleveland Clinic study, the researchers implemented a series of steps including immediate transfer to a catheterization lab in order to measure blood flow, and a standardized checklist for medical professionals to consult before handing off a patient to another team — ensuring that care was provided more comprehensively.
Prior to these steps, women had a significantly higher 30-day mortality rate (10.7 percent as opposed to 4.6 percent for men), but afterward the difference was “no longer statistically significant. Moreover, in-hospital deaths for women with STEMI went down 50 percent.
“This disparity has been well-established for many years,” says Khot. “Now there’s been a call to action to treat women better.”