EFFICACY OF ESTRADIOL IN PERIMENOPAUSAL DEPRESSION: SO MUCH PROMISE AND SO FEW ANSWERS


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Abstract

Background:Controversy regarding the antidepressant efficacy of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) stems almost from its inception and reflects the same methodological inconsistencies that have compromised efforts to determine whether the perimenopause is accompanied by an increase in mood symptoms or depression. Methodologic differences of note (other than study design) include menopausal state (perimenopause vs. postmenopause), determination of state (earlier studies used age as a proxy measure), baseline symptomatology (asymptomatic vs. depressive symptoms vs. syndromic depression), route of hormone administration (transdermal vs. oral), and symptom or syndrome measure. Zweifel and O'Brien's 1997 meta-analysis included 26 studies of the effects of menopausal HRT on depressed mood and revealed an overall effect size of 0.68. This moderate to large effect size, showing lower ratings of depressed mood in treated patients compared with controls, implicated HRT as a potential treatment of or prophylactic for depression in menopausal women. Since this publication, multiple studies have aimed to discern the relationship between HRT and menopausal mood.Methods:The purpose of this systematic review is to examine the findings and quality of the evidence amassed since Zweifel and O'Brien's meta-analysis.Results:Of the 24 studies meeting criteria for review, only five RCTs examined depressed subjects, and only two of the study samples were solely perimenopausal.Conclusions:One can generalize from the studies reviewed here only with great caution, but there is little evidence to support the use of estradiol to improve mood in nondepressed patients (not surprisingly) and some evidence to support the antidepressant efficacy of estradiol in perimenopausal but not postmenopausal women.

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