Hormone Therapy and Gallstones

Menopausal women who take hormone replacement pills seem to be at greater risk of needing surgery to treat gallstones, according to a study recently published in the journal of the Canadian Medical Association.

Interestingly, women who wear an estrogen patch to help ease symptoms related to menopause do not seem to have a higher incidence of gallbladder disease.

Researchers in France, where transdermal hormone patches tend to be preferred over pills often prescribed in North America, compared the two medication options to see if there were different risks and side effects. They discovered hormone pill-takers have much higher rates of gallbladder surgery. The study, however, did not establish a specific cause-and-effect relationship.

“Complicated gallstone disease should be added to the list of potential adverse events to be considered when balancing the benefits and risks associated with menopausal hormone therapy,” says Dr. Antoine Racine, of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research and Paris-Sud University in a CMAJ press release.