Women with heart problems are less likely than men to get an intensive care bed, according to a study.
Male patients jump the queue because doctors are more used to treating men with heart attacks, say researchers in London.
There is growing evidence of a gender gap in the treatment of heart disease.
It was reported on Sunday that men with heart disease are more than twice as likely to be given heart bypasses.
The latest research was carried out by a team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
They looked at the intensive care records of nearly 50,000 people rushed into hospital in the UK, outside of Scotland.
As well as being more likely to be admitted into intensive care, men suffering from heart attacks also had a lower death rate.
Men and women were treated the same for other illnesses such as asthma.
Dr Rosalind Raine and colleagues report their findings in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
They write: “This study demonstrated, for the first time, inequitable use of intensive care in favour of male patients with myocardial infarction (heart attack), neurological bleeding, and primary brain injury; and in favour of female patients with pneumonia and ventricular failure.”
They believe women get overlooked because heart attacks are traditionally seen as a disease of men.
Patients fitting the stereotype are more likely to be diagnosed and given prompt treatment.
One solution, say the authors, is to monitor the situation to ensure that it is clinical need alone that dictates treatment.
In a separate study, researchers at University College London looked at the records of almost 7,000 heart disease patients.
Men were more likely to get a heart bypass operation and to be prescribed better drugs.
The British Heart Foundation says coronary heart disease was responsible for the deaths of nearly 70,000 women in 1995, almost as many as from cancer
“The public perception of heart disease is that it occurs mainly in men,” the charity said in a statement.
“The truth is that heart disease is a major cause of death in women and is responsible for much disability which is often recognised later than in men.
Revision date: July 9, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD