UCL News


Angina 'may be missed in women'

21 March 2006

Women with chest pains may be dying of heart disease unnecessarily because doctors underestimate the severity of their condition, research suggests.

A team from UCL found that angina - often the first sign of heart disease - affected women at the same rate as men.

However, women with suspected angina were less likely to be offered confirmatory diagnostic tests. …

The UCL team say their work suggests that medics must be much more ready to carry out full investigations when they are consulted by women complaining of chest pains. …

The UCL team studied the records of over 100,000 angina patients aged 45-89 years.

They found that each year, two women out of every 100 in the general population developed angina, as the first sign of heart disease.

The study found that women diagnosed with angina were less likely to be given follow-up tests to confirm their condition, such as angiograms or treadmill exercise electrocardiograms (ECGs). …

However, the researchers report that such women have often been dismissed as having a 'soft' subjective complaint, without real pathological changes in the heart.

Researcher Professor Harry Hemingway [UCL Epidemiology & Public Health] said:

"For women, angina is a more significant public health problem than many doctors, or indeed the general public, realise.

"Women develop angina at a similarly high rate as men. And the angina which women experience is not benign in terms of death rates.

"We need to understand why women are relatively protected from heart attack but not from angina, and ensure fair access to investigation and treatment services." …

Professor Hemingway said it could be difficult to establish categorically which patients have angina.

And because many patients with the condition do not require hospital treatment, the issue had not been given the focus it deserved.

BBC News Online, 21 March 2006