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In Intensive Care, All Is Not Equal

Researchers find gender bias in British ICUs

FRIDAY, May 17, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Women and men may be created equal, but they don't necessarily receive equal treatment when they go to intensive care units in the United Kingdom.

And unequal treatment isn't necessarily skewed in the direction of one sex or the other.

Gender bias is evident in admissions to intensive care for heart attack, neurological bleeding and pneumonia, say researchers who analyzed more than 46,500 admissions to 91 intensive care units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The gender bias in intensive care may result from doctors' belief that certain conditions are more common in either men or women. When this gender bias occurs, it can result in over treatment or under-treatment.

The researchers looked at 10 disease categories and scored the illness severity for each patient. Data came from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre Case Mix Programme.

Men admitted with heart attacks were much younger, less ill and had a lower hospital death rate than women. That was much the same in cases of neurological bleeding, says the study in the June issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Men with brain injury were less likely than women with brain injury to die in hospital. But men were more likely than women to die of pneumonia and heart failure.

The researchers found no gender differences in admissions for irregular heart rhythms, chronic obstructive airways disease, asthma, poisoning and seizures.

More information

There have always been misconceptions about the effects of certain diseases on one gender or another. A good example is heart disease, where the data from the 1990s has begun to demonstrate that American women's heart problems had indeed been underdiagnosed.

This link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a thorough review of how heart disease is affecting women today.

SOURCE: June 2002 Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
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