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Hormone replacement therapy to maintain cognitive function in women with dementia

Overview of attention for article published in Cochrane database of systematic reviews, July 2002
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Hormone replacement therapy to maintain cognitive function in women with dementia
Published in
Cochrane database of systematic reviews, July 2002
DOI 10.1002/14651858.cd003799
Pubmed ID

Hogervorst, E, Yaffe, K, Richards, M, Huppert, F


As estrogens have been shown to have several potentially beneficial effects on the central nervous system, it is biologically plausible that maintaining high levels of estrogens in postmenopausal women by means of estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) could be protective against cognitive decline and the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD) or other dementia syndromes. To investigate the effects of ERT (estrogens only) or HRT (estrogens combined with a progestagen) compared with placebo in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on cognitive function of postmenopausal women with dementia. The CDCIG Specialized Register, which contains up-to-date records from many medical databases was searched using the terms ORT, PORT, ERT, HRT, estrogen*, oestrogen*, progesteron* and Alzheim* on 16th of May 2002. In addition, MEDLINE (1966-2002/01); EMBASE (1985-2002/01); and PsyINFO (1967-2002/01) were searched. All double-blind randomized controlled trials (RCTs) into the effect of ERT or HRT for cognitive function with a treatment period of at least two weeks in postmenopausal women with AD or other types of dementia. Abstracts of the references retrieved by the searches were read by two reviewers (EH and KY) independently in order to discard those that were clearly not eligible for inclusion. The two reviewers studied the full text of the remaining references and independently selected studies for inclusion. Any disparity in the ensuing lists was resolved by discussion with all reviewers in order to arrive at the final list of included studies. The selection criteria ensured that the blinding and randomization of the included studies was adequate. The two reviewers also assessed the quality of other aspects of the included trials. One reviewer (EH) extracted the data from the studies, but was aided and checked by JB from Cochrane. A total of five trials including 210 women with AD were analysed. Meta-analyses showed that there was a limited positive effect from low dosage of conjugated equine estrogens (CEE, 0.625 mg once a day) but not from higher dosage (1.25 mg of CEE once a day) on the Mini-Mental Status Examination after 2 months (WMD=1.28, 95% C.I.=0.26 to 2.30, z=2.45, p<0.01) and the effect disappeared after 3, 6 and 12 months of treatment. This effect was small and not clinically relevant as there was only a difference of 1 point on average in comparison with the placebo users (the scale range is 0-30). There were also short-term effects of 1.25 mg of CEE on tests of concentration and executive function, namely the Trail Making Test-B (WMD=-40.90, 95% C.I.-79.29 to -2.51, z=2.09, p<0.05) and Digit Span backward (WMD=0.67, 95% C.I.=-0.01 to 1.34, z=1.94, p<0.05). With regard to memory, only cued delayed recall of a word list was positively affected by 2 months of transdermal diestradiol (E2) (WMD=6.50, 95% C.I.=4.04 to 8.96, z=5.19, p<0.0001). No HRT effects were seen on other word lists, Paragraph Recall or Paired Associate Learning. In addition, no effects were seen on visual memory, language functions, most speeded tests, clinical rating scales or depression. Controls had better performance on the delayed recall of the Paragraph Test (overall WMD=-0.45, 95% C.I.=-0.79 to -0.11, z=2.60, p<0.01) after 1 month and on Finger Tapping after 12 months (WMD=-3.90, 95% C.I.=-7.85 to 0.05, z=1.93, p<0.05). Clinicians also gave controls a better score on a dementia rating scale (CDR, overall WMD=0.35, 95% C.I.=0.01 to 0.69, z=1.99, p<0.05). Positive findings in favour of treatment or placebo could have been random effects caused by multiple analyses. After correction for multiple testing, only the short-term positive treatment effect of E2 on memory remained. Currently, HRT or ERT for cognitive improvement or maintenance is not indicated for women with AD. As we did not have data on women with other types of dementia (e.g. vascular dementia) this remains to be investigated. As most studies only used CEE and our earlier review in healthy women found effects only after a bolus injection of E2, it remains possible that different preparations or types of ERT or HRT could have a different effects. Several questions are raised in this review, including whether factors such as age, dementia onset (early AD), or the use of a particular preparation for a longer duration of treatment could have different effects. Perhaps the most important question is whether ERT or HRT can delay the time of onset of dementia. For answers to these questions, we have to await the results of the large RCTs currently in progress in the UK, USA, and Canada.

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 4 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
Unknown 4 100%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Master 1 25%
Student > Postgraduate 1 25%
Student > Ph. D. Student 1 25%
Researcher 1 25%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Nursing and Health Professions 1 25%
Psychology 1 25%
Neuroscience 1 25%
Engineering 1 25%