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First published December 2004

Does Gender Influence the Likelihood or Types of Complications Following Cardiac Surgery?


Over 410,000 cardiac surgeries are performed in American women each year. Women having coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) and valve surgery do so at an older age and with more cardiovascular risk factors than men. Women's smaller body size may also increase risk by increasing the technical difficulty of surgical procedures. Female CABG patients appear to have higher perioperative mortality and cardiac morbidity, although studies of neurologic outcomes in female CABG patients have produced equivocal findings. Women undergoing CABG tend to consume more hospital resources than men do in terms of blood transfusion, mechanical ventilation, and length of intensive care unit and overall hospital stay. With regard to valve surgery, women appear to have worse outcomes than men if the surgery is combined with a CABG operation. Women and men undergoing isolated aortic valve surgery have similar mortality, but little is known about gender differences in mitral and tricuspid valve surgery outcomes. Women who require heart transplantation tend to have idiopathic cardiomyopathy rather than the ischemic cardiomyopathy that is more common in male heart transplant candidates. Although female heart transplant recipients seem to have a stronger immunologic response after transplantation, which manifests in more frequent acute rejection episodes, it is not clear whether this increases women's mortality risk. Men appear to have a greater incidence of posttransplant vasculopathy than women. Further research is needed to identify risk factors for perioperative morbidity and mortality in women undergoing cardiac surgery and to develop medical interventions to mitigate these risks.

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Article first published: December 2004
Issue published: December 2004

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Published online: December 1, 2004
Issue published: December 2004
PubMed: 15583790



Amanda A. Fox, MD
Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA
Nancy A. Nussmeier, MD
Department of Cardiovascular Anesthesiology, Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, P.O. Box 20345, MC 1-226, Houston, TX 77225-0345; [email protected]

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