Psychological effects of continuation versus discontinuation of hormone replacement therapy by estrogen implants: A placebo-controlled study
Pearce J., Hawton K., Blake F., Barlow D., Rees M., Fagg J., Keenan J.
There is conflicting evidence regarding the effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with estrogens on psychological and psychiatric symptoms of menopause. Forty women already attending a menopause clinic for continuing HRT by estrogen implants were studied in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of estrogen reimplantation versus implantation of a placebo preparation. Assessment included self rating with visual analog scales, standardized psychological and menopause rating scales (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Self-Concept Questionnaire, Cognitive Failures Questionnaire, Greene Menopause Index), and interview with the Present State Examination. No difference in outcome with regard to either psychological or psychiatric symptoms was found 2 months after entry to the study between the women who received an active implant and those who received a placebo implant, in spite of the former group having a significant rise in estradiol levels. The only effect of HRT on physical symptoms was a nonsignificant reduction in flushes. Psychiatric morbidity of the study population was high with nearly half being 'psychiatric cases' according to the Present State Examination at both initial assessment and follow-up. At entry to the study nearly all the women had levels of estradiol in the premenopausal range and four had supraphysiological levels. It appears likely that women were returning requesting a new implant because of symptoms related to nonhormonal factors. Women receiving continuing HRT for menopausal symptoms should be reassessed both for hormonal status and current psychosocial factors when they present with recurrent symptoms, especially those of a psychological or psychiatric nature.