OBJECTIVES: Estrogen therapy has been found to be useful in the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis. However, concern about its potential for worsening cholestasis has limited its use in postmenopausal women with primary biliary cirrhosis. The aim of the present study was to determine the safety as well as the efficacy of estrogen replacement therapy with respect to bone mass in postmenopausal women with primary biliary cirrhosis. METHODS: Bone mineral density of the lumbar spine (measured using dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) of 46 unselected postmenopausal women with primary biliary cirrhosis receiving estrogen replacement therapy was compared with 46 age-matched women with primary biliary cirrhosis not receiving estrogen replacement therapy, and with the expected normal bone mineral density adjusted for age and ethnic group. RESULTS: The mean duration of follow-up was 4.8 ± 0.4 yr. Treatment with estrogens resulted in a significantly lower rate of bone loss (0.002 g/cm2/yr ± 0.028 vs 0.009 g/cm2/yr ± 0.020, p = 0.05). Worsening cholestasis attributable to estrogen replacement therapy did not occur in any patient. One patient (2%) discontinued therapy because of side effects. CONCLUSIONS: Estrogen replacement therapy in postmenopausal patients with primary biliary cirrhosis is safe and may be effective in decreasing the rate of bone loss.
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