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Women Dominate Hospitalizations for Chest Pain With No Known Cause

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: November 20, 2008

Women are more likely than men to be hospitalized for chest pain for which doctors cannot find a cause, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). In 2006, there were 477,000 admissions of women to U.S. community hospitals for unspecified chest pain compared with 379,000 admissions for men.

Unspecified chest pain is usually characterized by a feeling of pressure, burning, or numbness. Although it is not clear why women receive this diagnosis more than men, there is some evidence that heart disease develops differently in women than men and that symptoms may be different. Medical experts believe that physicians may not always be aware of this gender difference.

The Federal agency also found that men were more likely to be hospitalized for heart disease or heart attacks than were women in 2006.


  • Women made up 56 percent of all admissions for unspecified chest pain, but only 38 percent of all admissions for coronary artery disease.
  • Roughly 451,000 women, compared with 747,000 men, were hospitalized for coronary artery disease. This disease results in narrowing of the arteries.
  • Heart attacks, which are usually caused by heart disease, sent 269,000 women to hospitals, compared with 406,000 men. Women made up 40 percent of all admissions for heart attacks.
  • Hospitalizations for congestive heart failure were roughly the same for women (565,000) and men (534,000).
  • Hospitalizations for irregular heart beat were also similar for women (379,000) and men (369,000).

This AHRQ News and Numbers summary is based on data in HCUP Facts and Figures, 2006, which provides highlights of the latest data from the 2006 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a part of AHRQ's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. The report provides data on leading reasons for hospitalization, such as arthritis, asthma, childbirth, cancer, diabetes, depression, and heart conditions, on procedures performed on hospital patients, and on related topics.

For other information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, contact Bob Isquith at, (301) 427-1539.

Current as of November 2008


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