Friday, September 10, 2010

Possible PCO Patient Adjusting IVF Antagonist Protocol For Fear Of OHSS: Decrease Gonal-F Dosage?


I am about to start my first IVF protocol (today is CD2). I am concerned about the recombinant FSH dosage prescribed and would like your opinion regarding appropriate dosage. I believe I am at higher risk for OHSS for several reasons (described below), however my recent ultrasounds are not showing definitive signs of PCO. Here is the protocol prescribed by my doc:

No pre-cycle BCPs (they make me very ill)
CD2: gonal-f 225
CD3: gonal-f 225
CD4: gonal-f 150
CD5: gonal-f 150
ultrasound on day 6
addition dosing determined following this ultrasound
Gonarilex to prevent premature ovulation

I called the doctor today because I was nervous about taking the first two days of 225IU gonal because of the risk of OHSS. After very little discussion, he switched me to 150IU for 4 days.

The difference between 225 and 150 is a big change. I wonder if I will get good results with a dosage that is this low. What is your opinion? I feel like there might be some sort of middle ground that is more appropriate? I would appreciate any thoughts. I would like to get the "best" results without complications of OHSS.

I believe I am at higher risk for OHSS than the normal woman for many reasons:

1) my ultrasound yesterday (on CD1) shows 9 follicles on right and 16 on left
2) I responded well to low doses of gonadotropins (6 IUI cycles some with letrozol/femera at 5mg/day?, others with clomid at 25mg/day all cycles gave 3-5 mature follicles on CD12),
3)I am petite (5'2", 100 lb.s)
4) in 2006 a doctor told me I had PCOS based on ultrasound results, a history of severe PMS, and moderate acne(two additional doctors I consulted with gave no diagnosis - I am not hairy or pear-shaped)
5) cancelled IUI due to elevated estrogen associated with a small complex cyst on cd2 (and another very uncomfotable IUI cycle when a different OBGYN proceeded with an IUI when I had a cyst at the start of my cycle).
6) grandma had type 2 diabetes
7)early male baldness runs in my family.


Hello J. from the U.S.,

First of all, I have to caution you about trying to second guess your doctor. Sometimes that may not be good. I would presume that your doctor had a logical reason for selecting your protocol.

You were originally scheduled to be on a 3 down protocol (75IU x 3 for two days then decrease). That is a standard protocol and is on the low side. Because of your concern, your doc decreased you to 150IU and will make adjustments based on the response. The only down side to the lower protocol is that you may not recruit as many follicles as the higher dose, but there is no way to know this when it is the very first cycle. In most cases we determine the protocol based on an educated guess. The adjustment at CD#6 is still early enough to increase the dosage and recruit more follicles if necessary, and if you are indeed a PCO, then you will already have an increased number of follicles and the decreased dosage will be safer for you.

I am glad to see that your doc is using the "antagonist" protocol with ganerelix. I am a firm believer in this medication and its ability to decrease the risks of OHSS. With the antagonist, instead of using HCG to trigger ovulation, Lupron can be used to trigger and because of its shorter half-life, the risk of OHSS is dramatically reduced. This is the protocol I use with my PCOD patients to reduce their risk, in addition to careful monitoring, lowered FSH dosage, Drifting (if necessary) and Coasting (if necessary). My goal is to keep the Estradiol level less than 4000 at the time of trigger. With this protocol, I have had no incidence of OHSS in my center for the past 5 years. Most the reasons that you gave for being PCOD are not valid criteria, but my concern would be the same as yours based on the high number of antral follicles seen on ultrasound. I treat patients as a PCO patient if they have PCO-appearing ovaries even if they don't meet the strict criteria for PCO. And, I find that they do stimulate like a PCO ie have a high number of follicles (>25).

In your case, I think that being safe is better than being sorry and the lower dose is probably the way to go. I call your new protocol a 2up protocol and it is a standard protocol that I use with my PCO patients. I check estradiols at CD#5, however, and adjust from there.

Good Luck,

Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program

Monterey, California, U.S.A.

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