All the more surprising that there is an area where the differentiation between men and women rarely happens – unfortunately, it needs to be said. In medicine, the notion that there needs to be a stronger distinction between the genders in clinical diagnostics and therapy to achieve optimal treatment is only very slowly asserting itself. MEDICA.de addressed this topic with Professor Beate Rau of the Charité Berlin and spokeswoman of the "Gender Medicine Task Force".
Prof. Rau, in most cases, female as well as male physicians don’t consider the gender of their patients in their medical diagnosis and treatment, for instance in the case of a heart attack. Why would that be?
Beate Rau: During their studies, both female and male physicians primarily learn to understand "the one" body and its functions and how to treat pathologies, but they don't learn to take a differentiated approach when looking at a woman’s or man’s body – at least not sufficiently. Attention is usually just paid to the obvious anatomical and metabolic differences, such as the urogenital tract or sex hormones for instance.
Yet it gradually turns out that the differences might carry more weight than previously thought, which is also evident by your task force creation. Can you give us an example from visceral surgery, which demonstrates the differences between the genders particularly well?
Rau: Based on the clinical spectrum of adiposity, the gender-specific relevance to gender difference can be very specifically illustrated in visceral surgery. According to the Robert Koch Institute, two-thirds or 67 percent of men and half of all or 53 percent of women are obese with a BMI greater than 25. What’s more, the different manifestation of adiposity (obesity) in women and men is particularly important. In women, obesity is accentuated in a visceral/intra-abdominal manner and subsequently has more far-reaching consequences than the predominantly excess abdominal fat in men. Another important point is the postoperative development of patients, which is particularly reflected in the length of hospital stay. The results of a retrospective analysis showed that compared to women, men develop a considerably higher level of wound effects during postoperative progress. The causes are presently not yet known, but they could be attributed to a different level of interleukins. Both of these examples illustrate already how important it can be to consider the gender of patients, especially in visceral surgery.
You want to achieve that treatment studies always consider gender-specific differences. When do you think this request is ready to be implemented?
The interview was conducted by Simone Ernst and translated by Elena O'Meara.