BACKGROUND: Previous studies examining sex-related differences in the treatment of coronary artery disease have focused on patients in hospital. We sought to examine sex-related differences at an earlier point in care--presentation to the emergency department. METHODS: We collected data on ambulatory care and hospital admissions for 54,134 patients (44% women) who presented to an emergency department in Alberta between July 1998 and March 2001 because of acute myocardial infarction, unstable angina, stable angina or chest pain. We used logistic regression and Cox regression analyses to determine sex-specific associations between the likelihood of discharge from the emergency department or coronary revascularization within 1 year and 1-year mortality after adjusting for age, comorbidities and socioeconomic factors. RESULTS: Following the emergency department visit, 91.3% of patients with acute myocardial infarction, 87.4% of those with unstable angina, 40.7% of those with stable angina and 19.8% of those with chest pain were admitted to hospital. Women were more likely than men to be discharged from the emergency department: adjusted odds ratio (and 95% confidence interval [CI]) 2.25 (1.75-2.90) for acute myocardial infarction, 1.71 (1.45-2.01) for unstable angina, 1.33 (1.15-1.53) for stable angina and 1.46 (1.36-1.57) for chest pain. Women were less likely than men to undergo coronary revascularization within 1 year: adjusted odds ratio (and 95% CI) 0.65 (0.57-0.73) for myocardial infarction, 0.39 (0.35-0.44) for unstable angina, 0.35 (0.29-0.42) for stable angina and 0.32 (0.27-0.37) for chest pain. Female sex had no impact on 1-year mortality among patients with acute myocardial infarction; it was associated with a decreased 1-year mortality among patients with unstable angina, stable angina and chest pain: adjusted hazard ratio (and 95% CI) 0.60 (0.46-0.78), 0.60 (0.46-0.78) and 0.74 (0.63-0.87) respectively. INTERPRETATION: Women presenting to the emergency department with coronary syndromes are less likely than men to be admitted to an acute care hospital and to receive coronary revascularization procedures. These differences do not translate into worse outcomes for women in terms of 1-year mortality.
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