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Coronary artery disease is often underdiagnosed in women

On Behalf of | Feb 29, 2024 | Medical Malpractice |

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a leading cause of death worldwide. It’s a significant health risk that is often underdiagnosed in women. This underdiagnosis stems from a combination of factors, including differences in symptom presentation, societal perceptions and diagnostic challenges.

Recognizing and addressing these issues is crucial for improving the detection and treatment of CAD in women, and for achieving the aim of ultimately reducing morbidity and mortality rates.

Differences in symptom presentation

Women with CAD often experience symptoms that differ from the classic symptoms commonly reported by men. While men are more likely to experience chest pain and pressure, women may present with more subtle symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and back or jaw pain. These non-specific symptoms can lead to misdiagnosis or dismissal of CAD as a less serious condition, such as anxiety or gastrointestinal issues.

Societal perceptions and bias

Gender bias in the medical community also contributes to the underdiagnosis of CAD in women. There is a misconception that CAD is primarily a man’s disease, which can lead to a lack of awareness among both healthcare providers and women themselves about the risk of heart disease. This bias may result in women being less likely to be referred for diagnostic testing or to receive aggressive treatment compared to men with similar risk factors or symptoms.

Diagnostic challenges

The diagnostic process for CAD can also present challenges in accurately identifying the disease in women. Traditional diagnostic tests, such as the treadmill stress test, may be less reliable in women. Women are more likely to have microvascular disease—narrowing or dysfunction in the smaller arteries of the heart—which may not be detected by standard tests that evaluate larger coronary arteries. This can lead to a failure to identify at-risk individuals, delaying necessary treatment and interventions.

Impact of underdiagnosis

The underdiagnosis of CAD in women has significant health implications. Without accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment, women face a higher risk of heart attack, and those who do experience a heart attack have worse outcomes compared to men.

Unfortunately, a missed diagnosis can be detrimental to a woman. If an individual suffers harm because of insufficient care in this regard, she may opt to pursue a medical malpractice claim, which may require considerable legal assistance.