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Advanced Endometriosis with Endometriotic Cysts

by Dr. Geoffrey Sher on October 1, 2017

Advanced endometriosis is often associated with ovarian endometriotic cysts, known as endometriomas. The cysts contain decomposed menstrual blood that looks like melted chocolate – hence the name “chocolate cysts.” They are space occupying cystic lesions within the ovarian connective tissue (stroma/theca) and if sizable (>1cm) often will activate the surrounding tissue to produce excessive amounts of male hormones (androgens) such as testosterone and androstenedione that can compromise egg development in the affected ovary (ies). This in turn often will result in egg numerical chromosomal abnormalities (aneuploidy) and reduced egg/embryo “competency”. Thus it is my opinion that any ovarian endometriomas larger than 1cm in diameter, should be removed eliminated before embarking on IVF.

Aside from compromising egg quality in the involved ovary, endometriomas can also cause severe and intractable pelvic pain, heavy menstruation (menometrorrhagia) and painful intercourse. They can also rupture leading to dissemination throughout the abdominal-pelvic cavity.  Accordingly, they are best addressed sooner rather than later.

Surgical Treatment: Conventional treatment of endometriomas involves complete surgical removal, usually conducted laparoscopically. Unfortunately, with surgery normal ovarian tissue can inadvertently be removed/damaged and result in scarring that that can compromise subsequent egg development in the affected ovary. Since many women who have endometriomas have already undergone previous surgery (ies) for endometriosis. Both the surgery (ies) and the advanced endometriosis will often have resulted in significant scarring and adhesion formation that can compromise subsequent visualization of, and access to anatomic structures during surgery, thereby increasing the risk of surgical complications. As such, many women with recurrent ovarian endometriomas are uncomfortable with the prospect of repeat surgery and its avoidance is often a factor in their decision to proceed with IVF.

Sclerotherapy: About 15 years ago I reported on a new, safe and highly effective outpatient approach to treating endometriomas in women planning to undergo IVF. This treatment, referred to as sclerotherapy, involves ultrasound needle guided aspiration of the chocolate-colored liquid content of the endometriotic cyst, followed by the injection of 5% tetracycline hydrochloride into the cyst cavity. In more than 75% of cases, this will result in disappearance of the lesion within 6-8 weeks. In some cases the injection of tetracycline into the endometrioma causes a reaction that results in clear or blood stained fluid collecting in the original cyst cavity where the endometrioma had been. Upon re-aspirating the fluid in the seroma, the lesion will usually disappear permanently. In a small number of cases, the endometrioma comes back and sclerotherapy must be repeated or surgical removal undertaken.

Ovarian sclerotherapy can be performed under local anesthesia or under conscious sedation. It has the advantage of being an ambulatory in-office procedure, low cost, and has a low incidence of significant post-procedural pain or complications as well as the avoidance of the need for invasive surgery. As such, sclerotherapy is in my opinion, the preferred treatment of endometriomas in women contemplating IVF and thus wish to preserve as much ovarian function as possible. It is a safe, effective and relatively inexpensive alternative to surgery. Since the procedure is associated with a small, but yet realistic possibility of pelvic adhesion formation; its use should in my opinion be confined to cases where IVF is the only treatment available to the patient or for women who intend to try and conceive through fertilization in their fallopian tubes (e.g. following natural conception or intrauterine insemination), who in my opinion would be better off undergoing laparotomy or laparoscopy for the treatment of their endometriomas.

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  • Mima K - November 8, 2017 reply

    Dear Dr.
    Is it possible to have endometriosis (confirmed with biopsy of a cyst capsule after laparoscopy) and PCOS? I am 36. My AMH after laparoscopy is 0,14. One IVF protocol (in July) with 2 follicles and no eggs. I am preparing for my second IVF protocol. Please tell me by your opinion which immunology testing should I do?
    Thank you in advance!

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - November 8, 2017 reply

    Unless tests for immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID) are performed correctly and conducted by a one of the few reliable reproductive immunology reference laboratory in the United States, treatment will likely be unsuccessful. . In this regard it is most important that the right tests be ordered and that these be performed by a competent laboratory. There are in my opinion only a handful of reliable Reproductive Immunology Laboratories in the world and most are in the U.S.A. Also, it is my opinion that far too often, testing is inappropriate with the many redundant and incorrect tests being requested from and conducted by suboptimal laboratories. Finally for treatment to have the best chance of being successful, it is vital that the underlying type of IID (autoimmune IID versus alloimmune) be identified correctly and that the type, dosage, concentration and timing of treatments be carefully devised and implemented.
    Who Should Undergo IID testing?
    When it comes to who should be evaluated, the following conditions should in always raise a suspicion of an underlying IID, and trigger prompt testing:
    • A diagnosis of endometriosis or the existence of symptoms suggestive of endometriosis (heavy/painful menstruation and pain with ovulation or with deep penetration during intercourse) I would however emphasize that a definitive diagnosis of endometriosis requires visualization of the lesions at laparoscopy or laparotomy)
    • A personal or family history of autoimmune disease such as hyper/hypothyroidism (as those with elevated or depressed TSH blood levels, regardless of thyroid hormonal dysfunction), Lupus erythematosus, Rheumatoid arthritis, dermatomyositis, scleroderma etc.)
    • “Unexplained” infertility
    • Recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL)
    • A history of having miscarried a conceptus that, upon testing of products of conception, was found to have a normal numerical chromosomal configuration (euploid).
    • Unexplained IVF failure
    • “Unexplained” intrauterine growth retardation due to placental insufficiency or late pregnancy loss of a chromosomally normal baby
    What Parameters should be tested?
    In my opinion, too many Reproductive Immunologists unnecessarily unload a barrage of costly IID tests on unsuspecting patients. In most cases the initial test should be for NK cell activation, and only if this is positive, is it necessary to expand the testing.
    The parameters that require measurement include:
    o For Autoimmune Implantation Dysfunction: Autoimmune implantation dysfunction, most commonly presents with presumed “infertility” due to such early pregnancy losses that the woman did not even know she was pregnant in the first place. Sometimes there as an early miscarriage. Tests required are: a) blood levels of all IgA, IgG and IgM-related antiphospholipid antibodies (APA’s) directed against six or seven specific phospholipids, b) both antithyroid antibodies (antithyroid and antimicrosomal antibodies), c) a comprehensive reproductive immunophenotype (RIP) and, c) most importantly, assessment of Natural Killer (NK) cell activity (rather than concentration) by measuring by their killing, using the K-562 target cell test and/or uterine cytokine measurement. As far as the ideal environment for performing such tests, it is important to recognize that currently there are only about 5 or 6, Reproductive Immunology Reference Laboratories in the U.S capable of reliably analyzing the required elements with a sufficient degree of sensitivity and specificity (in my opinion).
    o For Alloimmune implantation Dysfunction: While alloimmune Implantation usually presents with a history of unexplained (usually repeated) miscarriages or secondary infertility (where the woman conceived initially and thereupon was either unable to conceive started having repeated miscarriages it can also present as “presumed” primary infertility. Alloimmune dysfunction is diagnosed by testing the blood of both the male and female partners for matching DQ alpha genes and NK/CTL activation. It is important to note that any DQ alpha match (partial or complete) will only result in IID when there is concomitant NK/CTL activation (see elsewhere on this blog).
    How should results be interpreted?
    Central to making a diagnosis of an immunologic implantation dysfunction is the appropriate interpretation of natural killer cell activity (NKa) .In this regard, one of the commonest and most serious errors, is to regard the blood concentration of natural killer cells as being significant. Rather it is the activity (toxicity) of NK cells that matters as mentioned. Then there is the interpretation of reported results. The most important consideration is the percentage of target cells “killed” in the “native state”. In most cases a level of >10% killing should be regarded with suspicion and >12% overtly abnormal. In my opinion, trying to interpret the effect of adding IVIG or Intralipid to the sample in order assess whether and to what degree the use of these products would have a therapeutic benefit is seriously flawed and of little benefit. Clinically relevant NK cell deactivation can only be significantly effected in vivo and takes more than a week following infusion to occur. Thus what happens in the laboratory by adding these products to the sample prior to K-562 target cell testing is in my opinion likely irrelevant.
    There exists a pervasive but blatant misconception on the part of many, that the addition of Intralipid (IL) /immunoglobulin-G IVIG) can have an immediate down-regulatory effect on NK cell activity. This has established a demand that Reproductive Immunology Reference Laboratories report on NK cell activity before and following exposure to IVIG and/or IL. However, the fact is that activated “functional” NK cells (NKa) cannot be deactivated in the laboratory. Effective down-regulation of activated NK cells can only be adequately accomplished if their activated “progenitor/parental” NK cells are first down-regulated. Thereupon once these down-regulated “precursor” NK cells are exposed to progesterone, they will begin spawning normal and functional NK cells, which takes about 10-14 days. It follows that to assess for a therapeutic response to IVIG/IL therapy would require that the patient first be treated (10-14 days prior to embryo transfer) and thereupon, about 2 weeks later, be retested. While at 1st glance this might seem to be a reasonable approach, in reality it would be of little clinical benefit because even if blood were to be drawn 10 -14 days after IL/IVIG treatment it would require an additional 10 days to receive results from the laboratory, by which time it would be far too late to be of practical advantage.
    Neither IVIG nor IL is capable of significantly suppressing already activated “functional NK cells”. For this to happen, the IL/IVIG would have to down-regulate progenitor (parent) NK cell” activity. Thus, it should be infused 10-14 several prior to ovulation or progesterone administration so that the down-regulated “progenitor/precursor” NK cells” can propagate a sufficient number of normally regulated “functional NK cell” to be present at the implantation site 7 days later. In addition, to be effective, IL/IVIG therapy needs to be combined with steroid (dexamethasone/prednisone/prednisolone) therapy to down-regulates (often) concomitantly activated T-cells.
    I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.

    • The IVF Journey: The importance of “Planning the Trip” Before Taking the Ride”
    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
    • IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS)
    • The Fundamental Requirements for Achieving Optimal IVF Success
    • Use of GnRH Antagonists (Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron) in IVF-Ovarian Stimulation Protocols.
    • The Role of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID): PART 1-Background
    • Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID): PART 2- Making a Diagnosis
    • Immunologic Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID): PART 3-Treatment
    • Thyroid autoantibodies and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
    • Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction: Importance of Meticulous Evaluation and Strategic Management 🙁 Case Report)
    • Intralipid and IVIG therapy: Understanding the Basis for its use in the Treatment of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
    • Intralipid (IL) Administration in IVF: It’s Composition; how it Works; Administration; Side-effects; Reactions and Precautions
    • Natural Killer Cell Activation (NKa) and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction in IVF: The Controversy!

    If you are interested in seeking my advice or services, I urge you to contact my concierge, Julie Dahan ASAP to set up a Skype or an in-person consultation with me. You can also contact Julie by phone or via email at 702-533-2691/ Julied@sherivf.com You can also apply online at http://www.SherIVF.com .

    *FYI
    The 4th edition of my newest book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies” is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

    Geoffrey Sher MD

  • Tamara Madani - November 1, 2017 reply

    Hello Dr. Sher-

    I just read your article regarding Advancing Age/DOR and I am at a bit of a crossroads. I turned 44yo in July. I have a 19yo daughter from a previous marriage and I have always wanted more children, but unfortunately I did not meet my wonderful husband until 2 yrs ago. We tried to conceive naturally for about 7 months and while at my yearly GYN appt I mentioned this to my physician. She recommended seeing a RE due to my age and coincidentally about a month later I developed AUB which I had never had before, and US revealed a 6cm cyst versus endometrioma on my left ovary. I saw the RE and she recommended surgical removal of the cyst as well as removal of a large uterine polyp and several uterine fibroids. She also performed a D&C due to thickened uterine lining and cleaned out “a lot” of endometriosis lesions from my pelvic cavity. The surgery was performed in Aug and went well, she was unable to remove all of the cyst as she found that part of it had adhered to my abdominal wall and she did not want to risk permanently damaging my ovary (of note, my right ovary is healthy). My RE is of the opinion that we are not good candidates for IVF due to my AMH level (0.2) and my age. She did however offer us an alternative option of IUI and is comfortable with doing up to 6 cycles of IUI. But if after 3 cycles of IUI we have not had success, she would like us to consider egg donor which my husband is not fond of. I really want to ensure that we are doing everything relative to the IUI’s in my best interest/specific to my individual case. My first IUI run was unsuccessful. I was given a 5 day course of Femara beginning on CD 5 then US on CD 12 to confirm the presence of a large enough follicle. I had one follicle measuring 23mm and I got the green light to perform Ovidrel trigger injection that night (I injected at 11:30pm Wed night, not sure if my Rx was for 250mcg or 500mcg). We were told to have intercourse that night, abstain the following night and I was brought back to the office Friday at 3:00pm for the IUI procedure. I am concerned that maybe they are just following a basic IUI plan that they use for all patients, and this may not necessarily be the right plan for me and my situation. As far as I know all of my other hormone levels (pre IUI as well as my CD 3 numbers were all WNL, only my AMH level is drastically low). I know it is difficult to render advice/opionions without examining a patient/reviewing lab results, but given what I have told you is there anything else you could recommend going forward? I am about to embark on round 2 of IUI. I return to my RE office in 2 days on 11/3 for baseline US to ensure I do not have any ovarian cysts occurring and if not, I can move forward with the 2nd IUI. Of course just like anyone else going through fertility treatments, I want to maximize my chances of success, and I am not quite sure my current RE is tailoring my medications/treatment relative to my specific reproductive issues or just putting me through the usual IUI treatment gamut. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated!

    Sincerely,

    Tamara Madani

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - November 1, 2017 reply

    IUI at 44y of age in a woman with DOR would in my opinion have a very low chance of success (<1.5%). Ivf with own eggs is also a very poor choiucve. YTou need IVF using an egg donor.

    I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.
    • The IVF Journey: The importance of “Planning the Trip” Before Taking the Ride”
    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
    • IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
    • The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
    • Use of GnRH Antagonists (Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron) in IVF-Ovarian Stimulation Protocols.
    • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
    • Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) versus “Fresh” ET: How to Make the Decision
    • Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET): A Rational Approach to Hormonal Preparation and How new Methodology is Impacting IVF.
    • Endometriosis and Infertily
    • Endometriosis and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) and IVF
    • Endometriosis and Infertility: Why IVF Rather than IUI or Surgery Should be the Treatment of Choice.
    • Endometriosis and Infertility: The Influence of Age and Severity on Treatment Options
    • Early -Endometriosis-related Infertility: Ovulation Induction (with or without Intrauterine Insemination) and Reproductive Surgery Versus IVF
    • Treating Ovarian Endometriomas with Sclerotherapy.
    • Effect of Advanced Endometriosis with Endometriotic cysts (Endometriomas) on IVF Outcome & Treatment Options.
    • IVF Egg Donation: A Comprehensive Overview

    If you are interested in seeking my advice or services, I urge you to contact my concierge, Julie Dahan ASAP to set up a Skype or an in-person consultation with me. You can also contact Julie by phone or via email at 702-533-2691/ Julied@sherivf.com You can also apply online at http://www.SherIVF.com .
    *FYI
    The 4th edition of my newest book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies” is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

  • Isis maxwell - October 4, 2017 reply

    i have polycystic ovary not period, and I want to be mother, what do you recomend? Thank you Doctor

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher

    Dr. Geoffrey Sher - October 4, 2017 reply

    Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal system disorder among women affecting between 5% and 10% of women of reproductive age worldwide. Women with PCOS may have enlarged ovaries that contain small collections of fluid — called follicles — located in each ovary as seen during an ultrasound. The condition is characterized by abnormal ovarian function (irregular or absent periods, abnormal or absent ovulation and infertility), androgenicity (increased body hair or hirsutism, acne) and increased body weight –body mass index or BMI. The ovaries of women with PCOS characteristically contain multiple micro-cysts often arranged like a “string of pearls” immediately below the ovarian surface (capsule).interspersed by an overgrowth of ovarian connective tissue (stroma).

    PCOS is one of the most common causes of menstrual irregularities, infertility, and hirsutism, Despite an enormous effort to define its cause, the etiology of PCOS remains unclear, and there is no definite cure at this time. PCOS is clearly a heterogeneous disorder which often has a familial (genetic) basis. Infertility associated with PCOS has been attributed to numerous factors, including dysfunctional gonadotropin pituitary secretion, peripheral insulin resistance, elevated adrenal and/or ovarian androgen (male hormone) levels, and dysfunction of several growth factors. Women with this condition are often obese and insulin resistant. The compensatory hyperinsulinemia further stimulates ovarian androgen production which may be detrimental to egg maturation and there is a clear link between the degree of insulin resistance and anovulation. PCOS is also a significant long-term health risk for women, thus necessitating vigilance through regular annual examinations (non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, cardiovascular disease and endometrial cancer). Whereas PCOS-related infertility is usually manageable through the use of fertility drugs, lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) remain a mainstay of long-term therapy. More recently, ovulation rates, circulating androgens, pregnancy rates and perhaps even first-trimester miscarriage rates have been shown to improve when insulin sensitizers like metformin are used to correct the underlying insulin resistance.

    Most patients with PCOS are young and have excellent pregnancy rates with oral clomiphene. Those that require more aggressive treatments with injectable medications probably represent a subgroup of PCOS patients with severe ovarian dysfunction. These women often have explosive response to gonadotropins which can result in serious complications like Severe Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS…see below) and high order multiple births. In those women, the ability to perform “prolonged coasting” (see below) and selectively transfer fewer embryos during IVF offers a clear advantage over standard gonadotropin injections.

    Egg quality in PCOS

    The potential for a woman’s eggs to undergo orderly maturation, successful fertilization and subsequent progression to “good quality embryos” is in large part genetically determined. However, the expression of such potential is profoundly susceptible to numerous influences, especially intra-ovarian hormonal changes during the pre-ovulatory phase of the cycle. Proper follicular stimulation as well as precise timing of egg maturation with LH (Luteinizing Hormone) or hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) is crucial to optimal egg maturation, fertilization and ultimately embryo quality. Both pituitary gonadotropins, LH and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) play a pivotal but different role in follicular development. The action of FSH is mainly directed toward granulosa cell (cells lining the inside of the follicle) proliferation and estrogen production (E2). LH, on the other hand, acts primarily on the ovarian stroma (the connective tissue that surrounds the follicle) to produce androgens. While small amounts of ovarian androgens, such as testosterone, enhance egg and follicle development, over-exposure to them can have a deleterious effect. Furthermore, excessive ovarian androgens can also compromise estrogen-induced endometrial growth and development.

    Suppressing pituitary secretion of LH with gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists such as Lupron®, is particularly useful in PCOS. In that condition, serum LH levels are elevated, leading to stromal overgrowth, follicular arrests (so-called cysts) and high levels of androgens synthesis. It is therefore not surprising that these follicles often yield poorly developed (“immature”) eggs” at the time of egg retrieval (ET) and that “poor egg/embryo quality”, inadequate endometrial development and high miscarriage rates are common features of this condition. However, contrary to popular belief, this is not due to an intrinsic deficit in “egg quality”. Stimulation protocols geared toward optimizing follicle and egg development and avoiding over exposure to androgens correct these problems ad result in pregnancy rates similar to those of non-PCOS women. Whereas the overuse of LH-containing preparations such as Menopur® and Luveris® further aggravates this effect. In conclusion, to maximize ultimate oocyte maturation, we strongly recommend against the exclusive use of such products in PCOS patients, preferring FSH-dominant products such as Folistim®, Gonal F® or Bravelle® over a period of at least 9 days following pituitary suppression with Lupron®.
    PCOS women often have a family history of diabetes and demonstrable insulin resistance (evidenced by high blood insulin levels and an abnormal 2-hour glucose tolerance test).This underlying Diabetes mellitus tendency could play a role in the development of PCOS and contribute to the development of obesity, an abnormal blood lipid profile, and a predisposition to coronary vascular disease. Women with PCOS are slightly more at risk of developing uterine, ovarian and possibly also breast cancer in later life and accordingly should be evaluated for these conditions on a more frequent basis than would ordinarily be recommended to non-PCOS women.

    Most women with PCOS either do not ovulate at all or they ovulate irregularly. As a consequence thereof they in addition usually experience delayed, absent or irregular menstruation. In addition, an inordinate percentage of the eggs produced by PCOS women following ovulation induction, tend to be chromosomally abnormal (aneuploid). Rather than being due to an intrinsic egg defect being inherent in PCOS women, the poor egg quality more than likely the result of over-exposure to male hormones (predominantly, testosterone) produced by the ovarian stroma. These two factors (ovulation dysfunction and poor egg quality) are the main reasons for the poor reproductive performance (infertility and an increased miscarriage rate) in PCOS women.

    PCOS patients are at an inordinate risk of severely over-responding fertility drugs, both oral varieties (e.g. Clomiphene, Serophene & Femara) and especially the injectables (e.g. Follistim, Puregon, Gonal F, Menopur and Bravelle) by forming large numbers ovarian follicles. This can lead to life endangering complications associated with sever ovarian hyperstimulation (OHSS). In addition PCOS women receiving fertility drugs often experience multiple ovulations putting them at severe risk (40%+) of high order multiple pregnancy (i.e. triplets or greater) with often devastating consequences.

    VARIETIES OF POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME:

    1) Hypothalamic-pituitary-PCOS: This is the commonest form of PCOS and is often genetically transmitted and is characteristically associated with a blood concentration of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) that is uncharacteristically much higher than the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) level (FSH is normally higher than the LH concentration) as well as high-normal or blood androgen ( male) hormone concentrations (e.g. androstenedione, testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone -DHEA).Hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian PCOS is also often associated with insulin resistance and in about 40%-50% of the cases.

    2) Adrenal PCOS: Here the excess of male hormones are derived from overactive adrenal glands rather than from the ovaries. Blood levels of testosterone and/or androstenedione raised but here, but here, the blood level of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEAS) is also raised, clinching the diagnosis.

    3) Severe pelvic adhesive disease secondary to severe endometriosis, chronic pelvic inflammatory disease and/or extensive pelvic surgery: Women who have this type of PCOS tend to less likely to hyperstimulate in response to ovulation induction . Their. DHEAS is also is not raised.

    TREATMENT OF INFERTILITY DUE TO ASSOCIATED OVULATION DYSFUNCTION:

    Hypothalamic-pituitary-/ovarian PCOS: Ovulation induction with fertility drugs such as clomiphene citrate, Letrozole (Femara) or gonadotropins, with or without intrauterine insemination (IUI) is often highly successful in establishing pregnancies in PCOS women. However, IVF is fast becoming a treatment of choice (see below).

    In about 40% of cases, 3-6 months of oral Metformin (Glucophage) treatment results in a significant reduction of insulin resistance, lowering of blood androgen levels, an improvement in ovulatory function, and/or some amelioration of androgenous symptoms and signs.

    Surgical treatment by “ovarian drilling” of the many small ovarian cysts lying immediately below the envelopment (capsule) of the ovaries, is often used, but is less successful than alternative non-surgical treatment and is only temporarily effective. The older form of surgical treatment, using ovarian wedge resection is rarely used any longer as it can produce severe pelvic adhesion formation.

    Adrenal PCOS is treated with steroids such as prednisone or dexamethasone which over a period of several weeks will suppress adrenal androgen production, allowing regular ovulation to take place spontaneously. This is often combined with clomiphene, Letrozole and/or gonadotropin therapy to initiate ovulation.

    PCOS attributable to Pelvic Adhesive Disease is one variety which often is associated with compromised ovarian reserve, a raised FSH blood level and ovarian resistance to fertility drugs. In many such cases, high dosage of gonadotropins (FSH-dominant) with “estrogen priming” will often elicit an ovarian response necessary for successful ovulation induction and/or IVF. Neither steroids nor Metformin are helpful in the vast majority of such cases.

    PCOS women undergoing ovulation induction usually release multiple eggs following the hCG trigger and are thus at inordinate risk of twin or higher order multiple pregnancies. They are also at risk of developing OHSS. Many now believe that IVF should be regarded as a primary and preferential treatment for PCOS. The reason is that it is only through this approach that the number of embryos reaching the uterus can be controlled and in this manner the risk of high-order multiples can be minimized and it is only in the course of IVF treatment that a novel treatment method known as “prolonged coasting” ( see below) which prevents OHSS, can be implemented

    SEVERE OVARIAN HYPERSTIMULATION SYNDROME (OHSS):

    As indicated above, there is an inordinate propensity for women with PCOS to hyper-respond to gonadotropin fertility drugs and in the process produce large numbers of ovarian follicles. If left unchecked this can lead to OHSS, a potentially life endangering condition. The onset of OHSS is signaled by the development of a large number of ovarian follicles (usually more than 25 in number). This is accompanied by rapidly rising plasma estradiol (E2) levels, often exceeding 3000pg/ml within 7 or 9 days of stimulation, often rapidly peaking above 6,000 pg/ml prior to hCG administration. When this happens, the risk of OHSS developing is above 80%.

    Symptoms and signs of OHSS include: abdominal distention due to fluid collection (ascites), fluid in the chest cavity (hydrothorax), rapid weight gain (of a pound or more per day) due to tissue fluid retention, abdominal pain, lower back ache, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, visual disturbances such as blurred vision and spots in front of the eyes (scotomata), a rapidly declining urine output, cardiovascular collapse and failure of blood to clot which sometimes results in severe bruising (echymosis) and frank bleeding. These symptoms and signs may appear before pregnancy can be diagnosed. If pregnancy occurs, the condition is likely to worsen progressively over a period of 3-5 weeks whereupon it rapidly resolves spontaneously over a few days. If no pregnancy occurs, the symptoms and signs all disappear spontaneously within 10-12 days of the hCG injection.

    When increasing fluid collection in the abdominal cavity (ascites) starts to compromise breathing raising the head of the bed rose slightly by placing a 4-6 inch block at the base of each head post and using a few additional pillows, will sometimes help ameliorate the problem. In cases where this does not help or symptoms become severe, all or most of the fluid can readily and safely be drained through t transvaginal sterile needle aspiration (vaginal paracentesis-performed once or sometimes twice a week) can be performed once or twice weekly . The problem will usually self corrects within 10-12 days of the hCG shot if pregnancy does not occur or, by the 8th week of pregnancy.

    Urine output should be monitored daily to see if it drops below about 500ml a day (about two cups and a half). A chest X-ray, to evaluate for fluid collection in the chest and around the heart should be done weekly along with blood tests for hematocrit, BUN, electrolytes, creatinine, platelet count and fibrin split products (FSP). If indicated on the basis of a deteriorating clinical situation, hospitalization might be needed for close observation and if necessary, to provide intensive care.

    In all case of OHSS, the ovaries will invariably be considerably enlarged. This is irrelevant to the final outcome, unless ovarian torsion (twisting of the ovary on its axis), an extremely rare complication occurs. The latter would usually require surgical emergency surgical intervention.

    It is important to know that symptoms and signs of OHSS are severely aggravated by rising hCG levels. Thus such patients should not receive additional hCG injections.

    Does PCOS cause poor egg/embryo quality? It is an undeniable fact that women with PCOS undergoing IVF are commonly found to have poorly developed (“dysmorphic”) eggs, with reduced fertilization potential and yielding “poor quality embryos”. However, in the author’s opinion (which admittedly runs contrary to popular opinion), this is unlikely to be due to an intrinsic deficit in egg quality. Rather, it more likely relates to intra-ovarian hormonal changes brought about by hyperstimulation and which compromise egg development. This effect, in the author’s opinion, can often be significantly reduced through implementation of an individualized or customized ovarian stimulation protocols that minimize exposure of the developing follicles and eggs to excessive LH-induced ovarian androgens. This can be best achieved by limiting the use of LH-containing gonadotropins such as Menopur through selective institution of “prolonged coasting” (see below).

    In the past, the onset of OHSS, heralded by the presence of large numbers of developing ovarian follicles and rapidly rising plasma estradiol levels often led the treating physician to prematurely administer hCG in an attempt to abruptly arrest the process and prevent escalation of risk to the patient. However the premature administration of hCG, while abruptly arresting further proliferation of estrogen producing granulosa cells in the follicles, unfortunately also prematurely arrests egg development. Since the ability of an egg to achieve optimal maturation upon hCG triggering is largely predicated upon it having achieved prior optimal development, the untimely administration of hCG which triggers meiosis, probably increases the risk of numerical chromosomal abnormalities (aneuploidy) of the egg. This in turn would lead to reduced fertilization potential, poor egg/embryo quality and low embryo implantation potential.

    In women with PCOS the connective tissue that surrounding the follicles (ovarian stroma) is often characteristically overgrown (stromal hyperplasia). It is the stroma that produces androgens (mainly testosterone) in response to LH. It is this, coupled with the fact that PCOS women also often have elevated blood LH concentrations (see above) results in the excessive production of androgen hormones, which is so characteristic in PCOS. While excessive exposure of developing eggs to ovarian androgens compromises follicle and egg growth it also impairs endometrial response to estrogen, which could explain the common finding of poor endometrial thickening in many PCOS women undergoing IVF.
    .
    The obvious remedy for these adverse effects on egg and endometrial development is to employ stimulation protocols that limit ovarian over-exposure to LH and allowing the time necessary for the follicles/eggs to develop optimally, prior to administering hCG through the judicious implementation of “Prolonged coasting” (PC).

    “PROLONGED COASTING”:

    In the early 90’s we were the first to report on “prolonged coasting” (PC), a novel approach that protects egg quality while preventing the development of OHSS. PC has since, gained widespread acceptance as a method of choice for preventing OHSS and has established itself as the “standard of care”. It involves withholding gonadotropin therapy while continuing the administration of the GnRHa and waiting until the plasma estradiol concentration drops below 2,500 pg/ml. Thereupon hCG is administered. In such cases, regardless of the number of developed follicles or the number of eggs retrieved, these women rarely, if ever develop OHSS. It has been reported that while PC virtually eliminates the risk of life-endangering complications associated with OHSS, there are reports in the literature that “the price to pay with PC” is often a poorer fertilization rate and reduced embryo implantation potential, compromising the pregnancy”. It is the author’s opinion an experience in the development of PC that egg/embryo quality deficit likely has little to do with the process of PC, itself and can be explained as follows: When PC is initiated too early, follicle growth and development may cease (as evidenced by the estradiol level plateauing or falling immediately, rather than showing an initial continued increase), and when PC is started too late, the follicles will often become cystic, measuring >21mm by the time the estradiol level falls below the safe threshold of 250000pg/ml, and so harbor dysmorphic eggs. Thus precise timing of the initiation of PC is critical. It should in pact be initiated preemptively in all cases when there are more than 25 follicles and the plasma estradiol reaches or exceeds 2,500pg/ml in association, provided that at least 50% of the follicles measuring 14-16mm in mean diameter. Not a day sooner or a day later. If PC is initiated with precise timing, it will usually be followed by a further progressive rise in the estradiol concentration. After a few days, the estradiol level will plateau and then it will start to fall (often rapidly). The temptation to trigger with hCG before the estradiol level falls below 3000picogtrams per milliliter must be resisted …even if the level falls below 1,000pg/ml by the time hCG is given.

    Since when using agonist ( Cetrotide/Ganirelix/Orgalutron) pituitary suppression throughout the stimulation phase with gonadotropins, the plasma estradiol level often under expressed follicle growth, this method of pituitary blockade should not be used in cases ( such as with PCOS) where PC might be required.,

    Prolonged coasting prevents canceled cycles and with it, canceled dreams.

    I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.
    • The IVF Journey: The importance of “Planning the Trip” Before Taking the Ride”
    • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
    • IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
    • The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
    • Use of GnRH Antagonists (Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron) in IVF-Ovarian Stimulation Protocols.
    • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
    • Egg Maturation in IVF: How Egg “Immaturity”, “Post-maturity” and “Dysmaturity” Influence IVF Outcome:
    • Commonly Asked Question in IVF: “Why Did so Few of my Eggs Fertilize and, so Many Fail to Reach Blastocyst?”
    • Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
    • The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
    • Taking A Fresh Look at Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), its Presentation, Prevention and Management
    • Preventing Severe Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) with “Prolonged Coasting”
    • Understanding Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and the Need to Customize Ovarian Stimulation Protocols.
    • “Triggering” Egg Maturation in IVF: Comparing urine-derived hCG, Recombinant DNA-hCG and GnRH-agonist:
    • The “Lupron Trigger” to Prevent Severe OHSS: What are the Pro’s and Con’s?
    • My Retirement in the Year Ahead: A letter of Thanks From me to You!

    If you are interested in seeking my advice or services, I urge you to contact my concierge, Julie Dahan ASAP to set up a Skype or an in-person consultation with me. You can also contact Julie by phone or via email at 702-533-2691/ Julied@sherivf.com You can also apply online at http://www.SherIVF.com .

    *FYI
    The 4th edition of my newest book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies” is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

    Geoffrey Sher MD

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