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Study dispels gender difference for heart treatment


CHICAGO (AP) _ A new analysis suggests that contrary to some previous research, women heart patients fare about as well as men do from early, aggressive treatments such as angioplasty and bypass surgery.

Like earlier research, the new study found that women with severe chest pain tend to be older than men with the same condition, and differ in other respects. But the researchers said new treatments can even out those differences.

Those new treatments include a type of intravenous drug known as ``super aspirin'' to prevent blood clots, and stents, or wire mesh tubes, to keep arteries that have been unclogged by angioplasty propped open.

The findings appear in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers analyzed data from previously published research on 2,220 patients who were treated for severe chest pain called angina.

The original study looked at aggressive treatment plus blood-thinning medication versus more conservative treatment, such as medication only. It found that aggressive treatment is better. But the original study did not break down the findings by sex.

The new analysis performed such a breakdown and found that women gain benefits similar to men from the aggressive approach.

Compared with the men studied, the women were older _ age 64 on average versus 60 _ and more likely to have high blood pressure. Fewer women had previously diagnosed heart disease.

But death and heart attack rates six months later were similar in women and men who underwent angioplasty _ 10.7 percent in women and 10.9 percent in men, even though women were more likely to experience major bleeding during the procedure.

Death rates six months after bypass surgery also were not significantly different _ 5.3 percent among women versus 4.5 percent for men.

``Once we make a diagnosis of coronary artery disease, women do just as well with modern treatment strategies'' as men, said Dr. Howard Herrmann, a cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center and the lead researcher.

Herrmann has received research funding from Merck and Co., which sponsored the original study and makes the super aspirin Aggrastat that was used in the research.

The new findings are reassuring and should lead doctors to consider using more aggressive treatments on women, Drs. Judith Hochman and Jacqueline Tamis-Holland of St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center and Columbia University said in an accompanying editorial.
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