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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Jun;86(6):2428-36.

Specific factors predict the response to pulsatile gonadotropin-releasing hormone therapy in polycystic ovarian syndrome.

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  • 1Reproductive Endocrine Unit, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


Ovulation induction is particularly challenging in patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and may be complicated by multifollicular development. Pulsatile GnRH stimulates monofollicular development in women with anovulatory infertility; however, ovulation rates are considerably lower in the subgroup of patients with PCOS. The aim of this retrospective study was to determine specific hormonal, metabolic, and ovarian morphological characteristics that predict an ovulatory response to pulsatile GnRH therapy in patients with PCOS. Subjects with PCOS were defined by chronic amenorrhea or oligomenorrhea and clinical and/or biochemical hyperandrogenism in the absence of an adrenal or pituitary disorder. At baseline, gonadotropin dynamics were assessed by 10-min blood sampling, insulin resistance by fasting insulin levels, ovarian morphology by transvaginal ultrasound, and androgen production by total testosterone levels. Intravenous pulsatile GnRH was then administered. During GnRH stimulation, daily blood samples were analyzed for gonadotropins, estradiol (E(2)), progesterone, inhibin B, and androgen levels, and serial ultrasounds were performed. Forty-one women with PCOS underwent a total of 144 ovulation induction cycles with pulsatile GnRH. Fifty-six percent of patients ovulated with 40% of ovulatory patients achieving pregnancy. Among the baseline characteristics, ovulatory cycles were associated with lower body mass index (P < 0.05), lower fasting insulin (P = 0.02), lower 17-hydroxyprogesterone and testosterone responses to hCG (P < 0.03) and higher FSH (P < 0.05). In the first week of pulsatile GnRH treatment, E(2) and the size of the largest follicle were higher (P < 0.03), whereas androstenedione was lower (P < 0.01) in ovulatory compared with anovulatory patients. Estradiol levels of 230 pg/mL (844 pmol/L) or more and androstenedione levels of 2.5 ng/mL (8.7 nmol/L) or less on day 4 and follicle diameter of 11 mm or more by day 7 of pulsatile GnRH treatment had positive predictive values for ovulation of 86.4%, 88.4%, and 99.6%, respectively. Ovulatory patients who conceived had lower free testosterone levels at baseline (P < 0.04). In conclusion, pulsatile GnRH is an effective and safe method of ovulation induction in a subset of patients with PCOS. Patient characteristics associated with successful ovulation in response to pulsatile GnRH include lower body mass index and fasting insulin levels, lower androgen response to hCG, and higher baseline FSH. In ovulatory patients, high free testosterone is negatively associated with pregnancy. A trial of pulsatile GnRH therapy may be useful in all PCOS patients, as E(2) and androstenedione levels on day 4 or follicle diameter on day 7 of therapy are highly predictive of the ovulatory response in this group of patients.

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