“Per vaginam” topical use of hormonal drugs in women with symptomatic deep endometriosis: a narrative literature review

Laura Buggio, Caterina Lazzari, Ermelinda Monti, Giussy Barbara, Nicola Berlanda, Paolo Vercellini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: We aim to provide a comprehensive overview of the role of the vagina as a route for drug delivery and absorption, with a particular focus on the use of vaginal hormonal compounds for the treatment of deep infiltrating symptomatic endometriosis. Methods: A MEDLINE search through PubMed was performed to identify all published studies in English language on vaginal hormonal treatments for symptomatic endometriosis. Results: Main advantages of the vaginal route include avoidance of the hepatic-first pass metabolic effect, the possibility of using lower therapeutic dosages, and the reduction of side effects compared with the oral administration. Studies on endometriosis treatment mainly focused on the use of vaginal danazol (n = 6) and the contraceptive vaginal ring (n = 2). One pilot study evaluated the efficacy of vaginal anastrozole in women with rectovaginal endometriosis. Most investigations evaluated the vaginal use of hormonal agents in women with deep infiltrating endometriosis/rectovaginal endometriosis. Overall, a substantial amelioration of pelvic pain symptoms associated with endometriosis was observed, particularly of dysmenorrhea. A significant reduction in rectovaginal endometriotic nodule dimensions measured at ultrasound examination was detected by some but not all authors. Conclusions: The vaginal route represents a scarcely explored modality for drug administration. High local hormonal concentrations might achieve a greater effect on endometriotic lesions compared with alternative routes. Future studies should focus on the use of the vagina for delivering target therapies particularly in patients with deeply infiltrating rectovaginal lesions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-444
Number of pages10
JournalArchives of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Aromatase inhibitors
  • Contraceptive vaginal ring
  • Danazol
  • Endometriosis
  • Intravaginal administration
  • Vaginal ring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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