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Hum Reprod. 1997 May;12(5):1028-31.

Follicular density in ovarian biopsy of infertile women: a novel method to assess ovarian reserve.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK.


The ageing ovary appears to be characterized by depletion of primordial follicles. The relationship between infertility and the number of follicles in the ovarian cortex is not known. Moreover, there are no accurate markers or clinical methods to predict the decline in ovarian reserve. This study investigates the correlation between early follicular follicle stimulating hormone, ovarian size and follicular density in 60 infertile women aged 19-45 years (mean = 34.4 +/- 5.5). An ovarian biopsy was taken from each patient while performing diagnostic laparoscopy (n = 28) or laparotomy for tubal surgery or myomectomy (n = 32). The median number of follicles was similar in tubal and unexplained infertility patients (9.5 versus 5.5). Increasing age showed a significant negative correlation with follicular density and ovarian volume (r = -0.46, P = 0.0003;. r = -0.43, P = 0.0016, respectively). In women > or = 35 years of age the ovarian volume showed a strong correlation with follicular density (r = 0.71, P < 0.0001). Our results indicate that infertile women in their late thirties and over have a decreased ovarian reserve which could possibly be predicted by ovarian volume measurement. Ovarian biopsy may have a place as part of infertility evaluation in older women.

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