Diminished ovarian reserve is the predominant risk factor for gonadotropin releasing hormone antagonist failure resulting in breakthrough luteinizing hormone surges in in vitro fertilization cycles

Patients who fail to remain suppressed in response to GnRH antagonists have significantly poorer ovarian reserve compared with patients who do not experience breakthrough LH surges.

David Reichman, M.D., Lauren Zakarin, M.D., Kenny Chao, B.S., Laura Meyer, M.D., Owen K. Davis, M.D., Zev Rosenwaks, M.D.

Volume 102, Issue 1, Pages 99–102


To identify risk factors for breakthrough LH surge despite GnRH antagonist (GnRH-ant) suppression in IVF cycles.

Case-control study.

Academic medical center.

All patients undergoing IVF from August 2004 through July 2012 in whom GnRH-ant pituitary suppression (0.25 mg/d) was used in a flexible protocol.

GnRH-ant–based IVF.

Main Outcome Measure(s):
Breakthrough LH surges as evidenced by an increase in LH (minimum 2.5-fold increase from baseline above a threshold of 17 mIU/mL) associated with a decrease in E2, and free fluid on ultrasound.

Breakthrough LH surges despite GnRH-ant administration occurred in 37 (0.34%) of the 10,809 antagonist cycles during the study period. Compared with all patients remaining suppressed, patients with breakthrough surges were significantly older and had significantly increased FSH and decreased antral follicle counts. Compared with age-matched controls (allocation ratio, 1:50), significant differences in ovarian reserve remained evident.

The occurrence of a breakthrough LH surge despite GnRH-ant treatment is a reassuringly rare event. However, patients with diminished ovarian reserve are at risk for this outcome despite GnRH-ant down-regulation. Further studies are needed to determine whether these patients can be prospectively identified and whether they may benefit from higher doses of GnRH-ant.

  • Max Ezzati, MD

    This is a great paper! we have seen this phenomenon not so infrequently among our older patients and/or those with diminished ovarian reserve and I am glad that now there is evidence for our clinical observation and long-held suspicion! well done!

  • Juan Garcia-Velasco, MD

    Great data! We see early follicular rupture in women with diminished reserve, specially in advanced age, and this study quantifies these cases. Would you consider that these women may benefit from classical long protocol or flare-up protocol with agonists rather than the antagonist protocol?

    • Micah Hill

      I agree, very nice data to see! We use a classic long agonist in subsequent cycles for patients who surge on an antagonist protocol. I was curious what people do in the rare alternative situation, where patients surge in a long agonist protocol?

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