Tag Archives: gender bias in diagnosing women

Dear Carolyn: “My husband’s heart attack was treated differently than mine”

15 Oct

 

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

As I’ve repeatedly insisted, my Heart Sisters blog readers are the smartest, kindest, sharpest and best-looking readers out there in the blogosphere.  As part of my Dear Carolyn series of posts featuring my readers’ unique stories about becoming a heart patient, this one involves a plot twist that, sadly, sounds maddeningly familiar.

Today’s Dear Carolyn tale focuses on one of my favourite themes in women’s heart health: being misdiagnosed with acid reflux during a heart attack, and it stars my loyal reader, Kathleen: Continue reading

How can we get female heart patients past ER gatekeepers?

15 Nov

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Sometimes, people in my women’s heart health presentation audiences ask me if I’ve ever gone back to confront the physician who had misdiagnosed me with indigestion and sent me home from the E.R. – despite my textbook heart attack symptoms of chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain radiating down my left arm.  No, my heart sisters, I never did. But what did happen was, I think, even more satisfyingly juicy.   

Months after surviving that heart attack, and freshly fortified with Mayo Clinic cred after graduating from their annual WomenHeart Science & Leadership training for women with heart disease, I received an invitation to share what I’d just learned at Mayo to local docs and nurses working in Emergency Medicine.  I was offered one whole hour on the agenda of their annual Staff Education Day to talk about my own fateful misdiagnosis – and how, according to the Mayo Women’s Heart Clinic, that scenario might be avoided for future female heart patients like me: women who present with textbook cardiac symptoms but “normal” diagnostic tests. 

And as a patient advocate recently told physicians at a national symposium on integrated health care:

“The only way to heal a bad experience is to make it better for the next person.”   Continue reading

When your doctor mislabels you as an “anxious female”

4 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Take it from me: the only thing worse than a heart attack is being misdiagnosed and sent home from hospital while you’re having it. And for women in particular, this is a tragically all-too-common reality.  Research on cardiac misdiagnoses reported in The New England Journal of Medicine(1), for example, looked at more than 10,000 heart patients (48% of them women) who had gone to their hospital Emergency Departments with chest pain or other significant heart attack symptoms. Women younger than 55 were SEVEN TIMES more likely to be misdiagnosed and turned away from the E.R. than their male counterparts.

The consequences of this reality for women were enormous: being sent home from the hospital in mid-heart attack doubled their chances of dying.

Some of the most popular cardiac misdiagnoses that heart attack survivors have told me about include physician guesses like indigestion, menopause, stress, gall bladder issues, exhaustion, pulled muscles, dehydration and more. But perhaps the most distressing misdiagnosis to trip from the lips of an Emergency Department physician is “anxiety”. This one single word is instantly both dismissive and embarrassing. And worse, to have the diagnosis of “anxious female” recorded permanently on a woman’s chart virtually guarantees a definitive psychiatric stereotype for all future medical visits.   Continue reading