Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have shown that the risk of stroke and venous thromboembolism (VTE) is increased with hormone replacement therapy (HRT); the effect on coronary heart disease (CHD) remains unclear.
Methods and results
RCTs of HRT were identified. Event rates for cerebrovascular disease [stroke, TIA (transient ischaemic attack)], CHD (myocardial infarction, unstable angina, sudden cardiac death), and VTE (pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis) were analysed. Sensitivity analyses were performed by type of HRT (mono vs. dual) and subject age. 31 trials (44 113 subjects) were identified. HRT was associated with increases in stroke (odds ratio, OR, 1.32, 95% confidence intervals, CI, 1.14–1.53) and VTE (OR 2.05, 95% CI 1.44–2.92). In contrast, CHD events were not increased (OR 1.02, 95% CI 0.90–1.11). Ordinal analyses confirmed that stroke severity was increased with HRT (OR 1.31, 95% CI 1.12–1.54). Although most trials included older subjects, age did not significantly affect risk. The addition of progesterone to oestrogen doubled the risk of VTE.
HRT is associated with an increased risk of stroke, stroke severity, and VTE, but not of CHD events. Although most trials studied older patients, increased risk was not related to age. Combined HRT increases the risk of VTE compared with oestrogen monotherapy.