Women's Mortality Risk Higher at Most Hospitals

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , April 21, 2010

Women undergoing heart surgery and interventions are at a much greater risk of dying than are men undergoing the same procedures in the same hospitals, according to HealthGrades' Seventh Annual Women's Health in American Hospitals.

Women had a higher risk of mortality in three cardiovascular procedures: valve-replacement surgery (52.8% higher), coronary bypass surgery (36.6%), and coronary interventional procedures (19.5%). Women also had a 5.8% higher risk of dying after a stroke. Women had a better chance of surviving hospitalization than men for: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (16.4% lower risk), heart failure (12.8%), pneumonia (10.6%), and heart attack (2.4%).

"The finding that women's outcomes vary so dramatically from men's is surprising not in its result, as this disparity has been documented before, especially in cardiovascular care, but in its magnitude," said Rick May, MD, vice president with HealthGrades and an author of the study. "The differences in many areas are huge."

Women's patient outcomes not only varied when compared to men's, but also varied widely among hospitals. HealthGrades analyzed patient outcomes for women, age 65 or older, at all of the nation's nearly 5,000 nonfederal hospitals and identified those hospitals that are in the top 5% in the nation.

The top-performing hospitals had mortality rates for women that were 40.5% lower than the category of poorest performing hospitals, and complication rates for women that were 19.1% lower than the poorest performers. In addition, top-performing hospitals improved their mortality rates over the three-year period studied at a faster rate when compared to all other hospitals.

The study suggests that if all hospitals nationwide performed at the level of the top hospitals, 16,863 women could have potentially survived their hospitalization and 4,735 women could have potentially avoided a major in-hospital complication. Of the 16,863 potentially preventable deaths, 80.7% were associated with pneumonia, heart failure, stroke, and heart attack.

The annual study used Medicare data from 50 states from 2006 through 2008.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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