"Previous studies have shown that the rate of stroke is lower in women than in men, but women have worse outcomes than men - they are more likely to die or be disabled in the long term than men are," said study author Melinda Smith Cox, MPH, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "Our results may give us one reason for that disparity."
Smith said the results need to be confirmed by further studies. If the results are confirmed, education and other changes are needed to increase women's access to tests.
"Unfortunately, stroke is still thought of by some as a disease in men," she said. "We need to dispel that myth."
The study examined 220 women and 161 men in southeast Texas who had the ischemic type of stroke. Researchers examined the use by gender of four diagnostic tests: echocardiography of the heart, brain MRI, ultrasound of the carotid artery, and EKG. There was no difference between men and women in the initial severity of the strokes.
Sixty percent of women received carotid ultrasound, compared to 71 percent of men, Smith said. For echocardiography, 48 percent of women received the test, compared to 57 percent of the men.
There were no differences between men and women for brain MRI and EKG.
The differences still existed after researchers adjusted for other factors, such as a history of diabetes, previous strokes, heart disease, or high blood pressure.
Sixty-two percent of all deaths from stroke in the United States occur in women.
The study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 18,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and stroke.
For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit www.aan.com.