Dr. Sonia Anand of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, analyzed data from a study of 4,836 women and 7,726 men with chest pains, angina or certain types of heart attacks.
They found that women were less likely to be sent for invasive diagnostic tests like angiography. Overall, 15 percent fewer women underwent angiography, and 20 percent fewer high-risk women than high-risk men had the procedure.
"It wasn't that once the disease was documented, physicians ignored women and didn't send them to have operations -- they did," Dr. Anand said.
Anand said the women's death rate did not appear to be higher than men's, but they were more likely to complain of subsequent chest pain.
The next step is to determine whether doctors are less likely to recognize heart disease in women or women more likely to refuse invasive tests.
The study was reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and Anand also spoke this week at the Science Reporters' Conference.