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Symptoms Suggestive of Acute Coronary Syndrome

When Is Sex Important?

DeVon, Holli A. PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN; Burke, Larisa A. MPH; Vuckovic, Karen M. PhD, RN; Haugland, Trude PhD, RN; Eckhardt, Ann L. PhD; Patmon, Frances PhD, RN; Rosenfeld, Anne G. PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN

Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing: July/August 2017 - Volume 32 - Issue 4 - p 383–392
doi: 10.1097/JCN.0000000000000351
ARTICLES: Symptoms
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Background: Studies have identified sex differences in symptoms of acute coronary syndrome (ACS); however, retrospective designs, abstraction of symptoms from medical records, and variations in assessment forms make it difficult to determine the clinical significance of sex differences.

Objective: The aim of this study is to determine the influence of sex on the occurrence and distress of 13 symptoms for patients presenting to the emergency department for symptoms suggestive of ACS.

Methods: A total of 1064 patients admitted to 5 emergency departments with symptoms triggering a cardiac evaluation were enrolled. Demographic and clinical variables, symptoms, comorbid conditions, and functional status were measured.

Results: The sample was predominantly male (n = 664, 62.4%), white (n = 739, 69.5%), and married (n = 497, 46.9%). Women were significantly older than men (61.3 ± 14.6 vs 59.5 ± 13.6 years). Most patients were discharged with a non-ACS diagnosis (n = 590, 55.5%). Women with ACS were less likely to report chest pain as their chief complaint and to report more nausea (odds ratio [OR], 1.56; confidence interval [CI], 1.00–2.42), shoulder pain (OR, 1.76; CI, 1.13–2.73), and upper back pain (OR, 2.92; CI, 1.81–4.70). Women with ACS experienced more symptoms (6.1 vs 5.5; P = .026) compared with men. Men without ACS had less symptom distress compared with women.

Conclusions: Women and men evaluated for ACS reported similar rates of chest pain but differed on other classic symptoms. These findings suggest that women and men should be counseled that ACS is not always accompanied by chest pain and multiple symptoms may occur simultaneously.

Holli A. DeVon, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN Associate Professor, Department of Biobehavioral Health Science, College of Nursing, University of Illinois at Chicago.

Larisa A. Burke, MPH Project Director, Department of Biobehavioral Health Science, College of Nursing, University of Illinois at Chicago.

Karen Vuckovic, PhD, RN Assistant Professor, Department of Biobehavioral Health Science, College of Nursing, University of Illinois at Chicago.

Trude Haugland, PhD, RN Associate Professor, School of Nursing, Diakonova University College, Oslo, Norway.

Ann Eckhardt, PhD Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington.

Frances Patmon, PhD, RN Research Scientist, Dignity Health, San Francisco, California.

Anne G. Rosenfeld, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN Professor, College of Nursing, University of Arizona, Tucson.

This study was funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research (R01NR012012).

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence Holli A. DeVon, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing, 845 S Damen Ave M/C 802, Chicago, IL 60612 (hdevon1@uic.edu).

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