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Treatment of Vulvodynia with Tricyclic Antidepressants: Efficacy and Associated Factors

Reed, Barbara D. MD, MSPH1; Caron, Amy M. MD2; Gorenflo, Daniel W. PhD1; Haefner, Hope K. MD3

Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease: October 2006 - Volume 10 - Issue 4 - p 245-251
doi: 10.1097/01.lgt.0000225899.75207.0a
Original Articles

Objective. To determine the efficacy of tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) as treatment for vulvodynia, and to identify demographic factors and pain characteristics associated with improvement.

Materials and Methods. Between January 2001 and April 2004, women diagnosed with vulvodynia were offered TCA therapy. The patients rated their worst recent pain on a 10-point scale at baseline and at follow-up; improvement was classified as at least 50% reduction in reported pain from baseline.

Results. Of 271 women diagnosed with vulvodynia, 209 (77.1%) were treated initially with a TCA (amitriptyline [n = 183], desipramine [n = 23], and other tricyclic medications [n = 3]). One hundred sixty-two (59.8%) of the women were followed up at a median period of 3.2 months after their initial visit, including 122 women who had started on a TCA. Of 83 women taking a TCA at the first follow-up, 49 (59.3%) improved by more than 50%, compared with 30 of 79 women not taking TCA at follow-up (improvement rate = 38.0%; p =.007; odds ratio = 2.35; 95% CI = 1.23-4.42). Multivariate analysis indicated that age, severity of pain, diagnosis (localized vs generalized vulvar pain), length of time with pain before treatment, age at menarche, use of oral contraceptives, and the number of previous pregnancies were not associated with the outcome; however, taking a TCA at the time of the first follow-up was strongly associated with improvement (p <.001; odds ratio = 4.23; 95% CI = 1.98-9.01). Repeated analysis including only those women prescribed with amitriptyline rather than any tricyclic revealed similar results.

Conclusions. Women with vulvodynia who were prescribed a TCA in general (or amitriptyline, specifically) were more likely to have pain improvement compared with those women not taking these medications at follow-up. Randomized, controlled studies of TCAs versus other treatments are needed to clarify the overall effectiveness of these drugs.

Women treated with tricyclic antidepressants for vulvodynia were more likely to report at least 50% improvement in pain, compared with those not receiving these medications.

1Department of Family Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 2University of Michigan Medical School, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, and 3Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Reprint requests to: Barbara D. Reed, MD, MSPH, Department of Family Medicine, University of Michigan, 1018 Fuller Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0708. E-mail:

Supported in part by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health (R01 HD40112).

©2006The American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology