Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone antagonists for assisted reproductive technology

Hesham G. Al-Inany*, Mohamed A. Youssef, Reuben Olugbenga Ayeleke, Julie Brown, Wai Sun Lam, Frank J. Broekmans

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) antagonists can be used to prevent a luteinizing hormone (LH) surge during controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH) without the hypo-oestrogenic side-effects, flare-up, or long down-regulation period associated with agonists. The antagonists directly and rapidly inhibit gonadotrophin release within several hours through competitive binding to pituitary GnRH receptors. This property allows their use at any time during the follicular phase. Several different regimens have been described including multiple-dose fixed (0.25 mg daily from day six to seven of stimulation), multiple-dose flexible (0.25 mg daily when leading follicle is 14 to 15 mm), and single-dose (single administration of 3 mg on day 7 to 8 of stimulation) protocols, with or without the addition of an oral contraceptive pill. Further, women receiving antagonists have been shown to have a lower incidence of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). Assuming comparable clinical outcomes for the antagonist and agonist protocols, these benefits would justify a change from the standard long agonist protocol to antagonist regimens. This is an update of a Cochrane review first published in 2001, and previously updated in 2006 and 2011. Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) antagonists compared with the standard long protocol of GnRH agonists for controlled ovarian hyperstimulation in assisted conception cycles. Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group Trials Register (searched from inception to May 2015), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library, inception to 28 April 2015), Ovid MEDLINE (1966 to 28 April 2015), EMBASE (1980 to 28 April 2015), PsycINFO (1806 to 28 April 2015), CINAHL (to 28 April 2015) and trial registers to 28 April 2015, and handsearched bibliographies of relevant publications and reviews, and abstracts of major scientific meetings, for example the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) and American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). We contacted the authors of eligible studies for missing or unpublished data. The evidence is current to 28 April 2015. Selection criteria: Two review authors independently screened the relevant citations for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing different GnRH agonist versus GnRH antagonist protocols in women undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently assessed trial eligibility and risk of bias, and extracted the data. The primary review outcomes were live birth and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). Other adverse effects (miscarriage and cycle cancellation) were secondary outcomes. We combined data to calculate pooled odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Statistical heterogeneity was assessed using the I2 statistic. We assessed the overall quality of the evidence for each comparison using GRADE methods. Main results: We included 73 RCTs, with 12,212 participants, comparing GnRH antagonist to long-course GnRH agonist protocols. The quality of the evidence was moderate: limitations were poor reporting of study methods. Live birth There was no conclusive evidence of a difference in live birth rate between GnRH antagonist and long course GnRH agonist (OR 1.02, 95% CI 0.85 to 1.23; 12 RCTs, n = 2303, I2= 27%, moderate quality evidence). The evidence suggested that if the chance of live birth following GnRH agonist is assumed to be 29%, the chance following GnRH antagonist would be between 25% and 33%. OHSS GnRH antagonist was associated with lower incidence of any grade of OHSS than GnRH agonist (OR 0.61, 95% C 0.51 to 0.72; 36 RCTs, n = 7944, I2 = 31%, moderate quality evidence). The evidence suggested that if the risk of OHSS following GnRH agonist is assumed to be 11%, the risk following GnRH antagonist would be between 6% and 9%. Other adverse effects There was no evidence of a difference in miscarriage rate per woman randomised between GnRH antagonist group and GnRH agonist group (OR 1.04, 95% CI 0.82 to 1.30; 33 RCTs, n = 7022, I2 = 0%, moderate quality evidence). With respect to cycle cancellation, GnRH antagonist was associated with a lower incidence of cycle cancellation due to high risk of OHSS (OR 0.47, 95% CI 0.32 to 0.69; 19 RCTs, n = 4256, I2 = 0%). However cycle cancellation due to poor ovarian response was higher in women who received GnRH antagonist than those who were treated with GnRH agonist (OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.65; 25 RCTs, n = 5230, I2 = 68%; moderate quality evidence). Authors' conclusions: There is moderate quality evidence that the use of GnRH antagonist compared with long-course GnRH agonist protocols is associated with a substantial reduction in OHSS without reducing the likelihood of achieving live birth.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD001750
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2016


  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome
  • Ovulation Induction
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans


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