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Symptom presentation of women with acute coronary syndromes: myth vs reality
Quantitative Health Sciences Publications and Presentations
  • John G. Canto, University of Alabama
  • Robert J. Goldberg, University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • Mary M. Hand
  • Robert O. Bonow, Northwestern University
  • George Sopko
  • Carl J. Pepine, University of Florida
  • Terry Long
UMMS Affiliation
Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine
Publication Date
Document Type
Acute Disease; Age Factors; Chest Pain; *Coronary Disease; Diagnosis, Differential; Female; Humans; Prevalence; Risk Factors; Sex Factors; *Women's Health; World Health

BACKGROUND: Optimal diagnosis and timely treatment of patients with an acute coronary syndrome (ACS) depends on distinguishing differences between popular "myths" about ischemic symptoms in women and men. Chest pain or discomfort is regarded as the hallmark symptom of ACS, and its absence is regarded as "atypical" presentation. This review describes the presenting symptoms of ACS in women compared with men and ascertains whether women should have a symptom message that is separate or different from that for men.

METHODS: MEDLINE (1970-2005), bibliographies of articles, and pertinent abstracts were reviewed, focusing on studies of ACS presentation, especially those reporting differences in symptoms by sex. This analysis included 69 of 361 possible studies. Data regarding symptom presentation were recorded.

RESULTS: The published literature lacks standardization in characterizing ACS presentation, data collection, and reporting of symptoms. Approximately one-third of patients in the large cohort studies and one-quarter of patients in the smaller reports and direct patient interviews presented without chest pain or discomfort. The absence of chest pain or discomfort with ACS was noted more commonly in women than in men in both the cumulative summary from large cohort studies (37% vs 27%) and the single-center and small reports or interviews (30% vs 17%).

CONCLUSIONS: Women are significantly less likely to report chest pain or discomfort compared with men. These differences, however, are not likely large enough to warrant sex-specific public health messages regarding the symptoms of ACS at the present time. Further research must systematically investigate sex differences in the clinical presentation of ACS symptoms and must include standardized data collection efforts.

DOI of Published Version
Arch Intern Med. 2007 Dec 10;167(22):2405-13. Link to article on publisher's site
PubMed ID
Related Resources
Link to Article in PubMed
Citation Information
John G. Canto, Robert J. Goldberg, Mary M. Hand, Robert O. Bonow, et al.. "Symptom presentation of women with acute coronary syndromes: myth vs reality" Vol. 167 Iss. 22 (2007) ISSN: 0003-9926 (Linking)
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