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Keywords:

  • migraine;
  • hormones;
  • postmenopause

Objective.—To evaluate the effects of three schemes of oral hormone replacement therapy (HRT) on migraine course in postmenopausal women.

Methods.—Thirty-eight patients presenting for clinical evaluation of menopausal status and suffering from migraine were enrolled. The observational period lasted 7 months, during which women filled in a daily diary with the clinical features of headache attacks and analgesic use. We evaluated climacteric symptoms, anxiety and depression. After a 1-month run-in period, women were assigned to one of three regimens of HRT: estradiol hemihydrate 1 mg/day plus norethisterone 0.5 mg/day for 28 days, in a continuous combined scheme; oral conjugated estrogens 0.625 mg/day for 28 days plus medroxyprogesterone acetate 10 mg/day in the last 14 days, in a sequential continuous scheme; and estradiol valerate 2 mg/day for 21 days plus cyproterone acetate 1 mg/day from day 12 to 21 in a sequential cyclical scheme. Follow-up evaluations were performed at 3 and 6 months.

Results.—During the run-in period, the three subgroups of patients were similar as far as the features of migraine are concerned. Overall, a progressive increase in attack frequency (from 2.2  ±  1.0 to 3.8  ±  1.3, P<.001), days with headache (from 3.4  ±  1.3 to 4.9  ±  1.9, P<.001), and analgesic consumption (from 3.4  ±  1.3 to 5.6  ±  2.2, P<.001) was observed after 6 months. Duration of attacks decreased (from 18.1  ±  7.4 to 13.6  ±  4.2 hours, P  =  .005), whereas severity worsened (from 1.9  ±  0.2 to 2.1  ±  0.2, P<.001). The increase in number of days with headache and number of analgesics used was smaller in the group receiving the continuous combined regimen than in the other two groups.

Conclusion.—Although HRT typically will lead to some worsening of headache syndrome, estradiol hemihydrate plus norethisterone given in a combined continuous scheme was the regimen best tolerated by our patients.