Local oestrogen for vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003CD
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 estradiol releasing ring).
The objective of this review is to compare the effectiveness, safety and acceptability of oestrogenic preparations for women who suffer from vaginal atrophy.
We searched the Cochrane Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group register of trials (searched January 2003), The Cochrane Library (Issue 2, 2003), MEDLINE (1966-January 2003), EMBASE (1980-January 2003), Current Contents (1993-January 2003), Biological Abstracts (1969-2002), Social Sciences Index (1980-January 2003), PsycINFO (1972-February 2003), CINAHL (1982-January 2003) and reference list of articles. We also contacted manufacturers and researchers in the field.
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
Twenty nine trials were identified, of these 13 were excluded. Trials were assessed for quality and two reviewers extracted data independently. Ratios for dichotomous and means for continuous outcomes were estimated. Outcomes analysed were included under the headings of efficacy, safety and acceptability.
Sixteen trials with 2129 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 efficacy of oestrogenic preparations (in the form of creams, pessaries, tablets and the estradiol releasing vaginal ring) with each other in relieving the symptoms of vaginal atrophy, results indicated significant differences 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 six looked at adverse effects. One trial showed significant adverse effects of cream (conjugated equine oestrogen) when compared to tablets (estradiol) 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 progestagen challenge test in 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 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 (estradiol). Nine studies compared acceptability to the participants by comparing comfort of product, ease of use, overall product rating, delivery system and satisfaction. Results showed a significant preference for the estradiol releasing vaginal ring.
Creams, pessaries, tablets and the estradiol vaginal ring appeared to be equally effective for the symptoms of vaginal atrophy. One trial found significant side effects noted 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 cream (conjugated equine oestrogen) when compared to the ring. As a treatment choice women appeared to favour the estradiol releasing vaginal ring for ease of use, comfort of product and overall satisfaction.