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Local oestrogen for vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women

  • Suckling J
  • Kennedy R
  • Lethaby A
  • et al.
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BACKGROUND: Vaginal atrophy is a frequent complaint of postmenopausal women; symptoms include vaginal dryness, itching, discomfort and painful intercourse. Systemic treatment for these symptoms in the form of oral hormone replacement therapy is not always necessary. An alternative choice is oestrogenic preparations administered vaginally (in the form of creams, pessaries, tablets and the oestradiol-releasing ring). OBJECTIVES: The objective of this review was to compare the effectiveness, safety and acceptability of oestrogenic preparations for women who suffer from vaginal atrophy. SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group Register of trials (searched January 2006), The Cochrane Library (2006,Issue 2), MEDLINE (1966 to January 2006), EMBASE (1980 to January 2006), Current Contents (1993 to January 2006, Biological Abstracts (1969 to 2006), Social Sciences Index (1980 to January 2006), PsycINFO (1972 to February 2006), CINAHL (1982 to January 2006) and reference list of articles. We also contacted manufacturers and researchers in the field. SELECTION CRITERIA: The inclusion criteria were randomised comparisons of oestrogenic preparations administered intravaginally in postmenopausal women for the treatment of symptoms resulting from vaginal atrophy or vaginitis. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Thirty-seven trials were identified: of these 18 were excluded. Included trials were assessed for quality and two reviewer authors extracted data independently. The ratios for dichotomous outcomes and means for continuous outcomes were calculated. The outcomes analysed were categorised under the headings of: efficacy, safety and acceptability. MAIN RESULTS: Nineteen trials with 4162 women were included in this review. The overall quality of the studies was good, although not all trials measured the same outcomes. All trials measured efficacy, with various outcome measures. When comparing the efficacy of different oestrogenic preparations (in the form of creams, pessaries, tablets and the oestradiol-releasing vaginal ring) in relieving the symptoms of vaginal atrophy, results indicated significant findings favouring the cream, ring, and tablets when compared to placebo and non-hormonal gel. Fourteen trials compared safety. Four looked at hyperplasia, four looked at endometrial overstimulation and seven looked at adverse effects. One trial showed significant adverse effects of the cream (conjugated equine oestrogen) when compared to tablets (oestradiol) which included uterine bleeding, breast pain and perineal pain (1 RCT; OR 0.18, 95% CI 0.07 to 0.50). Two trials showed significant endometrial overstimulation as evaluated by a progestagen challenge test with the cream (conjugated equine oestrogen) group when compared to the ring (OR 0.29, 95% CI 0.11 to 0.78). Although not statistically significant there was a 2% incidence of simple hyperplasia in the ring group when compared to the cream (conjugated equine oestrogen) and 4% incidence of hyperplasia (one simple, one complex) in the cream group (conjugated equine oestrogen) when compared to the tablet (oestradiol). Eleven studies compared acceptability to the participants by comparing: comfort of product use, ease of use, overall product rating, delivery system and satisfaction. Results showed a significant preference for the oestradiol-releasing vaginal ring. AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Creams, pessaries, tablets and the oestradiol vaginal ring appeared to be equally effective for the symptoms of vaginal atrophy. One trial found significant side effects following cream (conjugated equine oestrogen) administration when compared to tablets causing uterine bleeding, breast pain and perineal pain. Another trial found significant endometrial overstimulation following use of the cream (conjugated equine oestrogen) when compared to the ring. As a treatment choice women appeared to favour the oestradiol-releasing vaginal ring for ease of use, comfort of product and overall satisfaction.




Suckling, J. A., Kennedy, R., Lethaby, A., & Roberts, H. (2006). Local oestrogen for vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women. In Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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