Gendered symptom presentation in acute coronary syndrome: A cross sectional analysis

Sharon O'Donnell, Gabrielle McKee, Frances O'Brien, Mary Mooney, Debra K. Moser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Background: The international literature suggests that the symptom presentation of acute coronary syndrome may be different for men and women, yet no definitive conclusion about the existence of gendered presentation in ACS has been provided. Objective: This study examines whether gendered symptom presentation exists in a well-defined sample of men and women with ACS. Design and setting: A cross-sectional analysis of baseline data pertaining to symptom experience and medical profiles were recorded for all ACS patients who participated in a multi-centered randomized control trial, in 5 hospitals, in Dublin, Ireland. Participants: : Patients were deemed eligible if they were admitted through the Emergency Department (ED) with a diagnosis of ACS, if they were at least 21 years of age and able to read and converse in English. Patients were excluded if they had serious co-morbidities, cognitive, hearing or vision impairment. Methods: Patients were interviewed 2-4 days following their ACS event and data was gathered using the ACS response to symptom index. Results: The study included 1947 patients of whom 28% (n=545) were women. Chest pain was the most commonly experienced symptom in men and women, reported by 71% of patients. Using logistic regression and adjusting for clinical and demographic variables, women had greater odds of experiencing shortness of breath (50% vs 43%; odds ratio [OR]=1.32; 95% CI=1.08-1.62; p=.006) palpitations (5.5% vs 2.8%; OR=2.17; CI=1.31-3.62; p=.003) left arm pain (34% vs 30.5%; OR=1.27; CI=1.02-1.58; p=.03) back pain (7.5% vs 4.8%; OR=1.56; CI=1.03-2.37; p=.034) neck or jaw pain (21.5% vs 13.8%; OR=1.84; CI=1.41-2.40; p=.001) nausea (28% vs 24%; OR=1.30; CI=1.03-1.65; p=.024) a sense of dread (13.4% vs 10.5%; OR=1.47; CI=1.08-2.00; p=.014) and fatigue (29% vs 21.5%; OR=1.64; CI=1.29-2.07; p=.001) than their male counterparts. Conclusions: Although chest pain is the most commonly experienced symptom by men and women, other ACS symptomology may differ significantly between genders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1325-1332
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank the patients who participated in this study. We also wish to thank the medical and nursing staff of the five participating hospitals. This study is funded by the Health Research Board, Dublin , whose support is greatly appreciated. Conflict of interest : None declared. Funding : The Health Research Board, Dublin provided funding for the study and had no additional role within the study. Ethical approval : Obtained from each of the ethics committee in the 5 participating hospitals and also from the Faculty of Health Sciences in Trinity College, Dublin.


  • Acute coronary syndrome
  • Atypical symptoms
  • Gendered presentations
  • Health education
  • Typical symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing


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