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HRT May Protect Against Leg, Pressure Ulcers

Kate Traynor

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania say that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) seems to lower the risk of leg and pressure ulcers for women older than 65 years.

Through review of a patient database, the researchers found that elderly HRT recipients were 35 percent less likely than the other elderly women to have a venous leg ulcer. Similarly, the risk of a having a pressure ulcer was about 32 percent lower among elderly HRT users than women who did not receive the therapy. These risk findings were adjusted for age.

The analysis was based on the computerized records for 44,195 randomly selected women, ages 66–94, who were listed in the United Kingdom General Practice Research Database between 1988 and 1996. None of these women had had a leg ulcer or pressure sore during the first six months of the record-keeping period.

A total of 4,944 women listed in the data set had received HRT. During the study period, 49 of these women were diagnosed with a pressure ulcer and 108 had a venous leg ulcer. Of the 39,251 women who did not receive HRT, 753 were later diagnosed with a pressure ulcer and 1,636 had a venous leg ulcer.

According to the research team, the presence of a potentially confounding clinical diagnosis, such as thrombophilia, diabetes, cellulitis, or osteoporosis, did not seem to affect the patients' risk of leg or pressure ulcer.

The researchers described their findings as "early evidence" that HRT might prevent chronic wounds but noted that the study did not examine whether HRT plays a role in healing existent wounds.

The study's findings were published in the Feb. 23 Lancet (PDF).

About 13 percent of the women who had a history of thrombophilia were receiving HRT even though the condition is considered a contraindication to estrogen replacement therapy. In closing their report, the researchers cautioned that the "long-term consequences" of such inappropriate prescribing should be examined.