1. A randomized controlled trial of the effect of oral hormone replacement therapy plus calcium compared with calcium alone on balance, muscle performance and falls was conducted over 48 weeks in 116 post-menopausal women (aged 45–70 years), all of whom had suffered a distal radial fracture during the previous 3 months. Treatment was with Prempak C or Premarin 0.625 mg in the test group with 1 g calcium daily (Sandocal) in both groups. Measurements were made of balance, assessed as sway, leg extensor power and self-paced walking speed, at 12-week intervals over 24 weeks. Hand grip strength was measured every 12 weeks for 48 weeks, and falls in the preceding 12 weeks were recorded at each visit.
2. There was no relation between initial levels of oestradiol and any other variable assessed, except body mass. Levels of follicle-stimulating hormone in the test group were in the premenopausal range. There was no significant change attributable to hormone replacement therapy at any time point in any of the outcome variables. The only significant difference was an increase of 4.2% (95% confidence interval 0.7–7.6%) in leg extensor power in the control group (calcium alone) compared with the group treated with hormone replacement therapy.
3. Of the total group, 37% fell again during the year, with three patients suffering a further fracture. Frequent fallers swayed significantly more often than the others, but there was no evidence that their muscle strength was poorer or that the group treated with hormone replacement therapy fell less frequently.
4. Hormone replacement therapy did not increase muscle performance, improve balance or reduce falls over a year in middle-aged women.