Objective: To evaluate the efficacy of estrogen therapy in the treatment of postmenopausal women with symptoms and signs associated with urogenital atrophy, by meta-analysis of available data.
Methods: We searched the literature (Excerpta Medica, Biosis, MEDLINE, and hand search) for studies published between January 1969 and April 1995. Criteria for inclusion were English-language articles, peer-reviewed original publications, and urogenital atrophy assessed by at least one of the following outcomes: patient symptoms, physician report, pH, or cytologic change. Data had to allow comparison between treated and control groups in controlled trials or an estimated change from baseline in uncontrolled series. Meta-analytic methods were applied separately to controlled clinical trials and uncontrolled studies.
Results: Of the 77 relevant articles reviewed, nine contained ten randomized controlled trials. Meta-analysis of these using the Stouffer method revealed a statistically significant benefit of estrogen therapy for all outcomes studied. In 54 uncontrolled case series, the patient symptoms were treated by 24 different treatment modalities. All routes of administration appeared to be effective and maximum benefit was obtained between 1 and 3 months after the start of treatment. As expected, the least systemic absorption of estrogen was seen with estriol (administered orally or vaginally), then vaginal estradiol as measured by pretherapy and posttherapy serum estradiol and estrone.
Conclusion: Estrogen is efficacious in the treatment of urogenital atrophy and low-dose vaginal estradiol preparations are as effective as systemic estrogen therapy in the treatment of urogenital atrophy in postmenopausal women.