Late-onset hypogonadism: Reductio ad absurdum of the cardiovascular risk-benefit of testosterone replacement therapy.
Sesti F., Pofi R., Minnetti M., Tenuta M., Gianfrilli D., Isidori AM.
BACKGROUND: Low testosterone (T) level is considered a marker of poor cardiovascular health. Ten years ago, the Testosterone in Older Men with Mobility Limitations (TOM) trial was discontinued due to a higher number of adverse events in men receiving T compared with placebo. Since then, several studies have investigated the risks of T replacement therapy (TRT) in late-onset hypogonadism (LOH). OBJECTIVE: To review the mechanism by which TRT could damage the cardiovascular system. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Comprehensive literature search of recent clinical and experimental studies. RESULTS: The mechanisms of T-mediated coronary vasodilation were reviewed with emphasis on calcium-activated and ATP-sensitive potassium ion channels. We showed how T regulates endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) and phosphoinositide 3-kinase/protein kinase B/eNOS signaling pathways in vessel walls and its direct effects on cardiomyocytes via β1-adrenergic and ryanodine receptors and provided data on myocardial infarction and heart failure. Vascular smooth muscle senescence could be explained by the modulation of growth factors, matrix metalloproteinase-2, and angiotensin II by T. Furthermore, leukocyte trafficking, facilitated by changes in TNF-α, could explain some of the effects of T on atheromatous plaques. Conflicting data on prothrombotic risk linked to platelet aggregation inhibition via NO-triggered arachidonate synthesis or increased aggregability due to enhanced thromboxane A in human platelets provide evidence regarding the hypotheses on plaque maturation and rupture risk. The effects of T on cardiac electrophysiology and oxygen delivery were also reviewed. DISCUSSION: The effects of TRT on the cardiovascular system are complex. Although molecular studies suggest a potential benefit, several clinical observations reveal neutral or occasionally detrimental effects, mostly due to confounding factors. CONCLUSIONS: Attempts to demonstrate that TRT damages the cardiovascular system via systematic analysis of the putative mechanisms led to the contradiction of the initial hypothesis. Current evidence indicates that TRT is safe once other comorbidities are addressed.