Monday, November 8, 2010

A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trials of DHEA Treatment Effects on Quality of Life in Women with Adrenal Insufficiency

Aziz A. Alkatib, Mihaela Cosma, Mohamed B. Elamin, Dana Erickson, Brian A. Swiglo, Patricia J. Erwin, and Victor M. Montori*

Department of Medicine (A.A.A.), Knowledge and Encounter Research Unit (A.A.A., M.C., M.B.E., D.E., B.A.S., P.J.E., V.M.M.), Mayo Clinic Libraries (P.J.E.), and Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, Metabolism, and Nutrition (M.C., D.E., B.A.S., V.M.M.), Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 55905

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:

Context: Women with primary or secondary adrenal insufficiency report a decreased health-related quality of life (HRQOL) despite traditional adrenal replacement therapy. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) has been studied as an agent to improve HRQOL in these patients.

Objective: We sought to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of DHEA effects on HRQOL in women with adrenal insufficiency.

Data Sources: We searched electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane CENTRAL, Web of Science, CINAHL, and PsycInfo) and reference lists of eligible studies through July 2008.

Study Selection: Eligible trials randomly assigned women with primary or secondary adrenal insufficiency to either DHEA or control and measured the effect of treatment on HRQOL.

Data Extraction: Reviewers working independently and in duplicate assessed the methodological quality of trials and collected data on patient characteristics, interventions, and outcomes.

Data Synthesis: We found 10 eligible trials that measured HRQOL and depression, anxiety, and sexual function. Random-effects meta-analysis showed a small improvement in HRQOL in women treated with DHEA compared with placebo [effect size of 0.21; 95% confidence interval, 0.08 to 0.33; inconsistency (I2) = 32%]. There was a small beneficial effect of DHEA on depression; effects on anxiety and sexual well-being were also small and not statistically significant.

Conclusions: DHEA may improve, in a small and perhaps trivial manner, HRQOL and depression in women with adrenal insufficiency. There was no significant effect of DHEA on anxiety and sexual well-being. The evidence appears insufficient to support the routine use of DHEA in women with adrenal insufficiency.