Background Women delay seeking treatment for symptoms of acute myocardial infarction longer than men delay. Women’s delay time has not been thoroughly characterized.

Objectives To qualitatively describe the period between the onset of symptoms of myocardial infarction and enactment of the decision to seek care (decision time) and to identify common patterns of cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses to the symptoms (decision trajectories).

Methods In this qualitative study, 52 women were asked in semistructured interviews to describe the symptoms and related thoughts, decisions, and actions from the onset of symptoms of myocardial infarction to arrival at the hospital. Narrative analysis was used to examine the stories and to identify patterns of decision-making behavior.

Results Six common patterns of behavior during the decision time were identified: knowing and going, knowing and letting someone take over, knowing and going on the patient’s own terms, knowing and waiting, managing an alternative hypothesis, and minimizing. The patterns were further grouped as knowing or managing. Women in the 2 groups (knowing and managing) differed primarily in their awareness and interpretations of the symptoms and in their patterns of behavior in seeking treatment.

Conclusions Women’s delay in seeking treatment for symptoms of myocardial infarction can be categorized into distinct patterns. Clinicians can use knowledge of these patterns to detect responses and situations that can decrease decision time in future cardiac events and to educate women about how to respond to cardiac symptoms.

You do not currently have access to this content.