Womens stroke symptoms differ from mens, often arent 'traditional' signs, study finds

ANN ARBOR, MI A new study documents for the first time a significant difference in the way women and men describe their symptoms while they're having a stroke. And that difference may be affecting how women receive emergency stroke treatment.

On the whole, the study found, women were 62 percent more likely than men to say they were feeling sensations that aren't on the list of "traditional" stroke symptoms.

Because emergency responders and emergency room doctors often go by patients' descriptions and the traditional symptom list when trying to diagnose and treat a suspected stroke, women's symptoms may be overlooked during the precious hours when stroke therapies work best, the researchers say. Delays in treatment with clot-busting drugs can lead to long-term disability or even death from a stroke.

The study, published in the November issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine by stroke specialists from the University of Michigan Health System and the University of Texas at Houston, concludes that recognition of the symptom differences could help women be evaluated and treated faster and more effectively.

The new results, from the TLL Temple Foundation Stroke Project, may help explain findings from other research showing that women often don't get stroke treatment as quickly as men.

"Our findings have important consequences for stroke diagnosis and treatment," says senior author Lewis Morgenstern, M.D. "All stroke treatments are time-dependent, so if women are not diagnosed promptly, it will slow down the effort to treat them." Morgenstern directs the U-M Stroke Program and is an associate professor of Neurology, Epidemiology, Emergency Medicine and Neurosurgery at the U-M Medical School and School of Public Health.

He adds, "These differences are both biologically interesting and socially consequential. They are important to medical education, too, because often medical students and others are trained that stroke is

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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