Harris co-edits book focusing on vascular disease in women – Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences


Its aim was to initiate a discussion among vascular physicians about how vascular disease, which is a disease of blood vessels, such as arteries and veins, can be different in women than in men and what it means. for diagnosis and treatment.

These discussions turned out to be so productive that the conference organizers realized that a book on women’s vascular health was a vital next step.

The result is “Vascular Diseases in Women: An Overview of the Literature and Treatment Recommendations” (Elsevier, August 2021).

The volume is edited by Linda M. Harris, MD, Professor of Surgery and Director of the Integrated Residency Program in Vascular Surgery at the Jacobs School, and Caitlin W. Hicks, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine .

The book is based in part on contributions from the 2019 conference panelists, all of whom were women, and complemented by additional contributions from other surgeons interested in the impact of sex on vascular disease.

The goal of both the conference, which has now taken place twice (the most recent was held virtually in April), and the book is to better educate medical providers about the differences in the presentation and outcomes of diseases. blood vessels in women, and to highlight problems that help make diagnosis and appropriate treatment more likely.

“I want clinicians to start thinking about vascular disease in women, to understand that a lot of women have vascular disease, but their presentation won’t be a manual,” says Harris, vascular surgeon at UBMD Surgery.

“I want them to know that if a woman is showing symptoms she should consider getting some testing because their presentation just won’t be classic, as textbook symptoms tend to be presentation based in men,” she adds.

For example, among the topics the book explores is the fact that a woman with a stroke may have different symptoms than a man.

“It may not be a weakness in an arm or a leg like in a man, but may present itself differently at first, such as a sudden memory problem, and the clinician may not expect it,” explains Harris.

Also, says Harris, women sometimes develop vascular disease at an older age than men, so they are more fragile, which also affects their symptoms.

She says clinicians also need to know that women can have aneurysms (the potentially dangerous bulge in an arterial wall) in different parts of their body than men, so they can make those diagnoses more immediately.

“Prevention and screening in women should also be considered,” says Harris. “Women who smoke or have a family history of aneurysm should be considered for screening, per the recommendations of the Society for Vascular Surgery, which has generally not been done because it is not currently covered by Medicare. . “

The book also discusses how issues of race and culture, such as unconscious bias, play a role in how vascular disease in women is often misdiagnosed or ignored.

“We know there is a gender bias in research as well, whether it’s surgical, clinical or even basic research,” says Harris. “For example, cell lines that are studied at a basic scientific level are almost always male cell lines, so potential hormonal impacts are not taken into account. It is not a conscious bias, it is an unconscious bias.

“It’s all awareness,” Harris continues. “If we don’t know we have a problem, then we’re never going to fix it. “


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