Stroke Tests Underused for Women

Not enough are getting key post-attack screens, study finds

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MONDAY, Sept. 26, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Crucial post-stroke tests of the heart and neck arteries are underused in all stroke patients, but especially among women, researchers report.

These tests alert doctors to the potential of blood clots forming in the heart while allowing them to check for the health of carotid arteries. They can help improve treatment of ischemic stroke patients and reduce their risk of a second stroke, according to experts at the University of Michigan.

Their study suggests that gaps in the use of these tests between men and women may explain why women tend to have worse long-term outcomes after stroke -- including a higher death rate -- compared with men.

Ischemic strokes are caused by blood clots traveling to the brain or by blockages in the carotid arteries that supply blood to the brain.

Reporting in the September issue of Neurology, researchers examined data on 381 ischemic stroke patients, including 220 women, treated at Texas community hospitals.

They found that women were 36 percent less likely than men to receive an echocardiogram of the heart, which can detect clot-producing conditions and other problems.

Women were also 43 percent less likely than men to have their carotid arteries examined, the study found.

"Diagnostic evaluations that should be done on every ischemic stroke patient still aren't being performed on a third to a half of patients, and they're less likely to be performed on women," study senior author Dr. Lewis Morgenstern, director of the U-M Cardiovascular Center's stroke program, said in a prepared statement.

"Intervention is needed to increase access to quality stroke care for all patients, but especially women," he said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about stroke prevention and treatment.

SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, Sept. 26, 2005

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