Aims/background: Patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) often have osteoporosis of the high-turnover type, suggesting that estrogen could have a beneficial effect. However, the cholestatic potential of estrogen could imply a risk of increased cholestasis in a disease characterized by cholestasis. The aim of the present study was to test whether hormone replacement therapy (HRT) could be used to increase bone mineral density (BMD) in PBC patients with osteoporosis, without causing deterioration of the liver function.
Methods: Nine female PBC patients with osteoporosis and one with osteopenia were offered HRT for two years. The change in BMD was compared to the change in ten age-matched female PBC patients who had less severe or no osteopenia and who did not receive HRT. Liver function tests were checked at six-month intervals.
Results: HRT patients showed a statistically significant increase in lumbar spine BMD and total body BMD whereas control patients showed a significant decrease in lumbar and total body BMD. In contrast to the controls, HRT patients also showed a decrease in truncal fat (-3.8%). Neither of the groups showed any statistically significant changes in the liver function tests.
Conclusions: HRT is safe and effective in female PBC patients with osteoporosis.