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According to the American Heart Association, more than 42 million women are affected with some form of cardiovascular disease that is responsible for 2,935,000 hospitalizations and 419,730 deaths every year (Roger).1 This is about 1 death per minute among women, which makes cardiovascular disease the leading cause of death in US women nationally (Roger).1 Heart disease causes more deaths in women than cancer, lung disease, and Alzheimer disease combined (Roger).1 Coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, congestive heart failure, and aortic aneurysms account for the majority of cardiovascular disease and related deaths in women (Roger).1 Cardiac surgery is an effective treatment for many patients afflicted with these disorders.


Approximately 500,000 patients undergo coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgery in the United States annually; however, only 25% of these surgeries are performed in women (Roger).1

Coronary artery disease usually manifests differently in women than in men. Symptoms in women are usually subtle, leading to delays in diagnosis and presentation at more advanced stages (Blankstein).2 For example, after a myocardial infarction women present more often with heart failure and cardiogenic shock symptoms, and they more frequently require support with intra-aortic balloon pumps or with inotropic drugs (Blankstein).2 In addition, women have a higher prevalence of diabetes and other risk factors associated with adverse outcomes after CABG such as renal failure, stage III or IV heart failure, and valvular heart disease (Blankstein).2

CABG surgery is not only performed less often in women but is also performed differently. The left internal mammary artery (LIMA) bypass to the left anterior descending coronary artery is used less often than in men (Blankstein).2 This is particularly relevant since LIMA bypass (Figure 5-1) has been associated with the best long-term primary patency rate and with improved long-term survival (Edwards).3 Women have smaller coronary arteries, leading to a lower number of bypass grafts performed per patient and to incomplete revascularization. Incomplete revascularization has been associated with adverse long-term outcomes (Edwards).3 Early outcomes after CABG are also less favorable in women. Women have an increased incidence of perioperative morbidity and mortality compared to men. The 30-day mortality in women can be about twice that of men (4.2% vs 2.2%) (Blankstein).2


Angiogram of left internal mammary artery to left anterior descending coronary artery. This bypass is performed less frequently in women than in men despite demonstrated improvement in survival.


Mitral valve disease is the most common valvular lesion in the United States (Roger).1 According to the Framingham study, the prevalence of moderate or severe mitral regurgitation is 15.5% in adult men and 4.2% in women (Singh)4 (Figure 5-2). Isolated ...

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