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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Sep;87(9):4128-36.

Predictors of outcome of long-term GnRH therapy in men with idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism.

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  • 1Reproductive Endocrine Unit of the Department of Medicine, National Center for Infertility Research, General Clinical Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA. npitteloud@partners.org


GnRH treatment is successful in inducing virilization and spermatogenesis in men with idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (IHH). However, a small subset of IHH men, poorly characterized to date, fail to reach a normal testicular volume (TV) and produce sperm on this therapy. To determine predictors of outcome in terms of TV and sperm count, we studied 76 IHH men (38% with anosmia) undergoing GnRH therapy for 12-24 months. The population was stratified according to the baseline degree of prior pubertal development: absent (group 1, n = 52), partial (group 2, n = 18), or complete (adult onset HH; group 3, n = 6). Cryptorchidism was recorded in 40% of group 1, 5% of group 2, and none in group 3. Pulsatile GnRH therapy was initiated at 5-25 ng/kg per pulse sc and titrated to attain normal adult male testosterone (T) levels. LH, FSH, T, and inhibin B (I(B)) levels were measured serially, and maximum sperm count was recorded. A longitudinal mixed effects model was used to determine predictors of final TV. LH (97%) and T (93%) levels were normalized in the majority of IHH men. Groups 2 and 3 achieved a normal adult testicular size (92%), FSH (96%), I(B) levels (93%), and sperm in their ejaculate (100%). However, given their prior complete puberty and thus primed gonadotropes and testes, group 3 responded faster, normalizing androgen production by 2 months and completing spermatogenesis by 6 months. In contrast, group 1 failed to normalize TV (11 +/- 0.4 ml) and I(B) levels (92 +/- 6 pg/ml) by 24 months, despite normalization of their FSH levels (11 +/- 2 IU/liter). Similarly, sperm counts of group 1 plateaued well below the normal range (median of 3 x 10(6)/ml) with 18% remaining azoospermic. The independent predictors of outcome of long-term GnRH therapy were: 1) the presence of some prior pubertal development (positive predictor; group effect (beta) = 4.3; P = 0.003); 2) a baseline I(B) less than 60 pg/ml (negative predictor; beta = -3.7; P = 0.009); and 3) prior cryptorchidism (negative predictor; beta = -1.8; P = 0.05). Notably, anosmia was not an independent predictor of outcome when adjusted for other baseline variables. Our conclusions are: 1) pulsatile GnRH therapy in IHH men is very successful in inducing androgen production and spermatogenesis; 2) normalization of the LH-Leydig cell-T axis is achieved more uniformly than the FSH-Sertoli cell-I(B) axis during GnRH therapy; and 3) favorable predictors for achieving an adult testicular size and consequently optimizing spermatogenesis are prior history of sexual maturation, a baseline I(B) greater than 60 pg/ml, and absence of cryptorchidism.

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