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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2000;(2):CD000150.

Androgens versus placebo or no treatment for idiopathic oligo/asthenospermia.

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Institute of Epidemiology, University of Leeds, 34 Hyde Terrace, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK, LS2 9LN.



Oligo-astheno-teratospermia (sperm of low concentration, reduced motility and increased abnormal morphology) of unknown cause is common and the need for treatment is felt by patients and doctors alike. As a result, a variety of empirical, non-specific treatments have been used in an attempt to improve semen characteristics and fertility. Androgens have been suggested as a treatment because its binding proteins maintain a maintain a high intratesticular level testosterone essential for spermatogenesis and because the epididymis and seminal vesicles affect the seminal constitution and sperm motility and are also androgen-dependent. However exogenous testosterone was found to exert negative feedback on the pituitary-gonadal axis and thereby to suppress FSH and LH secretion. Spermatogenesis was thus adversely affected. Nevertheless androgens are used for the treatment of male infertility either for a putative direct "stimulatory" or "rebound" therapy. The stimulatory androgens used are mesterolone and testosterone undecanoate which, it is postulated, in a form and dosage that does not influence pituitary gonadotrophin secretion, either have a direct stimulatory effect on spermatogenesis or influence sperm transport and maturation though an effect on the epididymis, ductus deferens and seminal vesicles. Other androgens have been used to produce a rebound effect. These androgens are administered to suppress gonadotrophin secretion and spermatogenesis. After androgen therapy is discontinued there is a surge of FSH and LH and spermatogenesis is recommenced. Because of their different proposed mechanisms of action, stimulatory and rebound androgen therapy are analysed separately in the comparisons. This review considers the available evidence of the effect of androgens for idiopathic oligo and/or asthenospermia.


The objective of this review was to assess the effect of androgen treatment of men among couples where failure to conceive has been attributed to idiopathic oligo- and/or asthenospermia.


The Cochrane Subfertility Review Group specialised register of controlled trials was searched".


Randomised trials of mesterolone or testosterone undecanoate versus placebo or no treatment (stimulatory therapy), or testosterone enanthate or testosterone undecanoate versus placebo or no treatment (rebound therapy) in couples where subfertility is attributed to male factor.


Eligibility and trial quality were assessed.


Eleven trials involving 930 patients were included. For stimulatory therapy, androgens had little effect on endocrinal outcomes and sperm parameters. The rate of pregnancy after androgens with stimulatory effect compared to no treatment or placebo was also similar (odds ratio 1.10, 95% confidence interval 0.75 to 1.61). In rebound therapy, no difference was found in sperm parameters. The pregnancy rate after androgens with rebound effect also showed no difference compared to no treatment or placebo (odds ratio 1.60, 95% confidence interval 0.42 to 6.16). Adverse effects such as headaches and exanthema were reported.


There is not enough evidence to evaluate the use of androgens for male subfertility. [This abstract has been prepared centrally.]

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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