Women treated for heart
disease with implantable cardioverter defibrillators are significantly less likely to survive potentially fatal heart arrhythmias than men, according to a new study presented last month at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting in Atlanta.
The study, conducted by researchers in UConn’s schools of Pharmacy and Medicine, found that female patients with cardiovascular disease and a high risk
of fatal heart arrhythmias experienced only a 12 percent reduction in risk of death with the use of
an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, compared to a 24 percent reduction in risk for male patients with the same profile who use
The devices are currently considered the treatment of choice
for patients at high risk of sudden cardiac death.
“Our study strongly suggests that implantable cardiac defibrillators should no longer be considered the treatment of choice for women at high risk of fatal heart arrhythmias,” says Nickole Henyan, a research fellow in
the School of Pharmacy and the study’s lead author.
“The devices can provide life-saving therapy for many patients but, unfortunately, little has been known about their effectiveness in women until now, because male patients account for the majority of the participants in clinical
trials,” Henyan says.
“This study should serve as a wake-up call to the medical community that special attention needs to be paid to women’s health, especially when it comes to finding new ways to help them achieve the same survival success rates as men.”
The study, using an approach known as meta-analysis, reviewed five controlled clinical trials involving 6,405 patients.
| Nickole Henyan, a research fellow in the School of Pharmacy and lead author of a study which concluded that
implantable cardiac defibrillators are less effective in treating women at risk of heart disease than men.
|Photo by Erin Twohig
Implantable cardioverter defibrillators were used as the primary prevention method, and risk of death for men and women was assessed in all five of the trials.
Further study needed
Given the large number of patients evaluated through meta-analysis, the researchers were able to detect this trend, which had not previously been seen in the individual trials.
Still, they stopped short of calling their study “definitive” for women, because the number of male patients (4,830) still greatly surpassed the number of female patients (1,575) for which they had data.
“Women need to be enrolled in far greater numbers in clinical trials because, when they are not, it is assumed the results seen in a trial would be seen uniformly in patients across the board,” Henyan says.
“While this may be true most of the time, it is not always the case, and clearly that lack of knowledge can harm patients.”
Approximately 150,000 cardioverter defibrillators are implanted in patients each year.