A Systematic Review of the Utility of Antidepressant Pharmacotherapy in the Treatment of Vulvodynia Pain


Raphael J. Leo MA, MD, Department of Psychiatry, SUNY at Buffalo School of Medicine, Erie County Medical Center, 462 Grider Street, Buffalo, NY 14215, USA. Tel: 716-898-4857; Fax: 716-898-4447; E-mail: Rleomd@aol.com


Introduction.  Antidepressants have often been recommended as a potential treatment for the management of vulvodynia. However, review of the evidence supporting this recommendation has not been systematically assessed.

Aim.  To evaluate the efficacy of antidepressant pharmacotherapy in the treatment of vulvodynia.

Main Outcome Measures.  An assessment of the methodological quality of published reports addressing the utility of antidepressants in the treatment of vulvodynia was undertaken. Several secondary outcomes generated in the existing literature were also examined.

Methods.  A comprehensive search of the available literature was conducted.

Results.  The search yielded 13 published reports, i.e., 2 randomized controlled trials, 1 quasi-experimental trial, 7 non-experimental studies, and 3 case reports. A number of methodological shortcomings were identified in several of the reports with respect to study design including lack of clear inclusion/exclusion criteria, small sample sizes, lack of comparison groups, insufficient blinding, among others. The vast majority of studies utilized tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). Evidence supporting the benefits of TCAs studied to date was limited, i.e., based largely upon descriptive reports but unsubstantiated by randomized controlled trials. There were no systematic investigations into the comparative efficacy of different antidepressant classes in the treatment of vulvodynia.

Conclusion.  There is insufficient evidence to support the recommendation of antidepressant pharmacotherapy in the treatment of vulvodynia. Although some vulvodynia-afflicted patients derive symptom relief from antidepressants, additional research is required to identify those characteristics that would predict those patients for whom antidepressants are more likely to be effective. Leo RJ and Dewani S. A systematic review of the utility of antidepressant pharmacotherapy in the treatment of vulvodynia pain. J Sex Med 2013;10:2497–2505.