More research needed on coronary artery disease treatments for women

Research Activities, October 2012, No. 386

Current evidence is too limited to draw firm conclusions about the comparative benefits or harms of different treatment strategies for women with coronary artery disease (CAD), concludes a new review by the Effective Health Care Program of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). However, some evidence suggests that women may respond differently to some treatment strategies than men. In the few studies that reported results for women separately, both women and men who suffer a severe heart attack and undergo percutaneous coronary intervention to unblock arteries have better results than using medicine (fibrinolysis) alone to reduce cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.

Limited evidence also suggests that an early invasive approach reduces heart attack and stroke for women with partial artery blockages or unstable angina. These results were not statistically significant, but do point in the same direction as data from a larger number of studies that combine results for men and women that indicate the significant benefits of early intervention. The limited sex-specific data for treatment of stable angina suggests that more research is needed to understand possible different responses. Although cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, most studies do not focus on the effectiveness of treatments in women. Existing research may not adequately reflect the benefits and risks that women experience. More than 6 percent of women in the United States have CAD, and more than 500,000 women die from it each year. A better understanding of the effectiveness of different medical treatments in women is needed.

These findings can be found in the research review, Treatment Strategies for Women With Coronary Artery Disease (PDF File). Visit Inside Track, AHRQ's Effective Health Care (EHC) Program newsletter, to learn more about important health news and developments. You can also read more reviews at the Effective Health Care Program Web site.

Page last reviewed October 2012
Internet Citation: More research needed on coronary artery disease treatments for women: Research Activities, October 2012, No. 386. October 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.