Women on the heart transplant list face a greater risk of death

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Women on the heart transplant list are more likely than their male counterparts to die while waiting for a heart transplant, according to a poster presented at the Heart Failure Society of America Scientific Assembly.

“Women typically live longer in population studies, such as the Framingham Heart study,” said Eileen Hsich, MD, director of the Women’s Heart Failure Clinic and associate medical director for the heart transplant program at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “This seems to be one of the only cohorts where the patients have been dying at a faster rate than men.”

This discrepancy lead Hsich to seek National Institute of Health (NIH) funding to examine why women with UNOS Status 1A and 1B have a greater risk for death than men.

According to Penn Medicine, Status 1A patients require intensive care hospitalization, life-support measures, certain cardiac supporting intravenous medications with a Swan-Ganz catheter, or mechanical-assist devices. Status 1B patients are dependent on intravenous medications or a mechanical-assist device in the hospital or at home.

While Hsich is still at the beginning stages of her research and has not identified an exact cause of why women in this cohort are at a greater risk of death than men, she encourages her colleagues to recognize the issue and explore all current treatments to their fullest.

“Women are dying,” Hsich said. “It’s not a fair playing field and we can’t make it fair until we understand it. Until then, please use devices that have been proven to have benefits in both genders.”

Ventricular assist devices take over some of the work of the heart by helping to pump blood. These devices are connected to the heart during an operation and work to give the heart time to rest before a healthy heart can be transplanted.