File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo Inc. / monkeybusiness

Complications, death more likely for women following aorta surgery: Study

Women are more like than men to experience a stroke or death following surgery on their heart’s aorta, according to a recent study by a London-based research centre.

The study by researchers at the Lawson Health Research Institute examined three different outcomes following the surgery; early death, stroke and various complications. Researchers said women are 80 per cent more likely to die, 90 per cent more likely to experience a stroke, and 40 per cent more likely to experience a complication, following aorta surgery.

Each patient’s age, weight, pre-operative health and co-morbidities were all taken into consideration during the study.

Dr. Michael Chu, a clinician-scientist at Lawson and a cardiac surgeon at London Health Sciences Centre, said this issue has not been well addressed in the past.

“Sex-specific considerations are paramount in cardiovascular medicine, and we investigated this in the largest study to date, looking at outcomes after thoracic aortic surgery,” he said in a media release. “Similar to other areas in cardiovascular medicine, our study suggests women present later in the disease process perhaps with atypical symptoms, like nausea. This may explain the difference in outcome between women and men in emergency situations, when patients experience something like an aortic dissection, or a ruptured aorta. But even still – we analyzed both situations – when people came for elective versus emergency surgery – and women still did worse either way.”

The findings are consistent with other recent cardiovascular medicine studies that suggest women experience worse outcomes, said Chu.

Dr. Jennifer Chung, a scientist at the University Health Network’s (UHN) Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and lead researcher on the study, said the findings should prompt further research to discover why women are suffering from worse outcomes than men following this surgery.

“This [study] helps us understand that surgery shouldn’t be the same for men and women, and that we must educate ourselves about picking up symptoms in women sooner. Our take home is that we need to do more research,” said Chung. “There shouldn’t be an outcome gap between men and women… We shouldn’t accept that women are more ‘fragile.’ We should work to minimize that gap as much as possible.”