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Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 1988 Dec;17(4):785-813.

Evaluation and therapy of polycystic ovarian syndrome.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.


The amenorrhea associated with bilateral polycystic ovaries, described by Stein and Leventhal, actually represents a syndrome involving various organs and systems. Clinically, this symptom complex commonly presents as menstrual disturbances, infertility, excessive body weight, and hirsutism. An understanding of the pathophysiology that underlies these symptoms provides a logical basis for evaluation and treatment of the syndrome. The diagnostic approach may involve biochemical determinations (baseline, stimulated, and suppressed) and radiologic testing. Therapy is directed at chronic anovulation, the hyperandrogenism responsible for hirsutism and acne, and the prophylaxis against endometrial and breast carcinomas. Ovulation can be induced with various agents, many of which have a risk of ovarian hyperstimulation in the PCOD patient. The use of GnRH agonists with HMG or FSH for ovulation induction will probably increase in the future. Although classic wedge resection has little place in modern management of PCOD, the recent laparoscopic ovarian cautery remains largely unstudied with respect to long-term postoperative plasma androgen levels and pelvic adhesions. It is too premature to evaluate this new surgical therapy. Hirsutism is effectively treated with estrogen-progestin combinations, medroxyprogesterone acetate, androgen receptor blockers (spironolactone, cimetidine, cyproterone acetate, and cyproheptadine), and glucocorticoids. To date, the available GnRH agonists have not been found selective enough to be used in the treatment of hirsutism, owing to possible long-term complications. Most medical approaches should include electrolysis for permanent hair removal. At present, gynecologic surgery seems to have little place in the management of hirsutism.

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