Pulsatile gonadotrophin releasing hormone for ovulation induction in subfertility associated with polycystic ovary syndrome

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome have menstrual disorders caused by the absence of ovulation. About 20% of women will not ovulate on clomiphene citrate, the primary treatment option. These women can be treated with a surgical procedure like laparoscopic electrocautery of the ovaries or by ovulation induction with gonadotrophins or gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH). In normal menstrual cycles, GnRH is released in a regular pulsatile interval. A portable pump can be used to mimic this pulse to help these women to ovulate and hopefully to get pregnant. The review of trials did not find enough evidence to show the effectiveness of pulsatile GnRH in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

Authors' conclusions: 

The four trials describing four different comparisons with a short follow up (1 to 3 cycles) were too small to either prove or discard the value of pulsatile GnRH treatment in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome.

Read the full abstract...

In normal menstrual cycles, gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH) secretion is pulsatile, with intervals of 60-120 minutes in the follicular phase. Treatment with pulsatile GnRH infusion by the intravenous or subcutaneous route using a portable pump has been used successfully in patients with hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism. Assuming that the results would be similar in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), pulsatile GnRH has been used to induce ovulation in these women. Although ovulation and pregnancy have been achieved, the effectiveness of pulsatile GnRH in women with PCOS has not been clearly demonstrated.


To assess the effectiveness of pulsatile GnRH administration in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), in terms of ongoing pregnancy, ovulation, clinical pregnancy, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), multiple pregnancy, miscarriage, and multifollicular growth.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Menstrual Disorders & Subfertility Group trials register (searched 13 August 2003), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (Cochrane Library Issue 2, August 2001), MEDLINE (January 1966 to August 2003), EMBASE (January 1985 to August 2003) and reference lists of articles. We also contacted manufacturers and researchers in the field.

Selection criteria: 

All relevant published randomised clinical trials were selected for inclusion if treatment consisted of pulsatile GnRH administration versus another treatment for ovulation induction in subfertile women with PCOS.

Data collection and analysis: 

Relevant data were extracted independently by two reviewers (NB, MW). Validity was assessed in terms of method of randomisation, completeness of follow-up, presence or absence of crossover and co-intervention. All trials were screened and analysed for predetermined quality criteria. Data synthesis: 2X2 tables were generated for all the relevant outcomes. Odds ratios were generated using the Peto method.

Main results: 

Four randomised clinical trials involving 57 women were identified comparing four different treatments: GnRH versus HMG, GnRH and FSH versus FSH, GnRH following pretreatment with GnRH agonist (GnRHa) versus GnRH only, GnRH following pretreatment with GnRHa versus clomiphene citrate. This means that there was only one trial in any one comparison. In two studies, data of pre- and post-crossover were not described separately. All trials were small and of too short duration to show any significant differences in pregnancy results. The odds ratio for ongoing pregnancy, only described in one trial, was 7.5 (95% CI 0.44 to 127) in the comparison GnRH following pretreatment with GnRHa versus GnRH only in favour of the first group. Multiple pregnancies were not seen. Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome was seen only in women allocated to ovulation induction with HMG.