Objective: To investigate the effects of hormone therapy on brain structure in a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial in recently postmenopausal women. Methods: Participants (aged 42-56 years, within 5-36 months past menopause) in the Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study were randomized to (1) 0.45 mg/d oral conjugated equine estrogens (CEE), (2) 50 mg/d transdermal 17b-estradiol, or (3) placebo pills and patch for 48 months. Oral progesterone (200 mg/d) was given to active treatment groups for 12 days each month. MRI and cognitive testing were performed in a subset of participants at baseline, and at 18, 36, and 48 months of randomization (n 5 95). Changes in whole brain, ventricular, and white matter hyperintensity volumes, and in global cognitive function, were measured. Results: Higher rates of ventricular expansion were observed in both the CEE and the 17b-estradiol groups compared to placebo; however, the difference was significant only in the CEE group (p = 0.01). Rates of ventricular expansion correlated with rates of decrease in brain volume (r = 20.58; p ≤0.001) and with rates of increase in white matter hyperintensity volume (r =0.27; p = 0.01) after adjusting for age. The changes were not different between the CEE and 17b-estradiol groups for any of the MRI measures. The change in global cognitive function was not different across the groups. Conclusions: Ventricular volumes increased to a greater extent in recently menopausal women who received CEE compared to placebo but without changes in cognitive performance. Because the sample size was small and the follow-up limited to 4 years, the findings should be interpreted with caution and need confirmation. Classification of evidence: This study provides Class I evidence that brain ventricular volume increased to a greater extent in recently menopausal women who received oral CEE compared to placebo.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology