Hormone Therapy Patients Have More Surgeries

Menopause hormone therapy patients likelier to have gallbladder surgery

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) To ensure hormone levels stay balanced and regulate the body, women who hit menopause may start hormone therapy. But menopause hormone therapies are not without risk.

According to a recently study, about one excess gall bladder surgery can be expected among every 150 women using oral estrogen therapy.

Researchers recommended that gallstone disease be added to the list of possible side effects from taking hormone therapy.

By doing so, women and their doctors can better balance the risks and benefits with hormone therapy.

"Hormone therapy has risks - talk to your doctor."

Antoine Racine, MD, MSc and colleagues looked for any possible links between hormone therapy and gallbladder surgery. The gallbladder aids in digesting fat and processing bile. Gallstone disease can lead to gallstones and pain in the abdomen.

The study included about 71,000 French women between 1992 and 2008 who were surveyed on their lifestyle characteristics, medical history and use of hormone therapy for menopause.

The women were insured under the French national health insurance plan for teachers and coworkers, which required that the women respond to a health wellness survey every couple of years.

The participants reported use of menopause hormone therapy, the date they started, how long they were on the therapy and the brand names of the products.

About two-thirds of the participants were on different levels of hormone therapy. Among those participants, 2,819 had their gallbladders removed.

The link between needing surgery and being on hormone therapy was strongest for women on unopposed oral estrogen therapy, which is therapy without the hormone progesterone.

Specifically, women on unopposed oral estrogen therapy were roughly 38 percent more likely to have their gallbladders removed.

The risks equal out to about one out of every 150 women using unopposed oral estrogen therapy would have an gallbladder surgery.

"In this large French prospective cohort study, we found that the risk of [gallbladder surgery] was increased among women exposed to oral estrogen regimens for menopausal hormone therapy, especially oral regimens without a progestagen," researchers wrote in their report.

"Other types of menopausal hormone therapy were not associated with an increased risk of [gallbladder surgery]."

The authors noted a few limitations with their study, including relying on patients to accurately report their use of hormone therapy and surgery. Researchers stated in their report that missing or incorrect data was unlikely.

The study, funded by the Assistance publique hôpitaux de Paris, was published online March 18 in CMAJ

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 16, 2013
Last Updated:
March 18, 2013