Hormonal evaluation of female infertility and reproductive disorders

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Performance of the male and female reproductive systems reflects the orderly operation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. Aberrant operation of this axis can result in many different reproductive disorders, including various forms of infertility. Proper evaluation of these disorders involves a multifaceted diagnostic approach, which includes a critical contribution from the clinical laboratory. This ajunctive testing, involving the measurements of peptide and sex-steroid hormone concentrations, allows the clinician to biochemically 'dissect' the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis and ascertain the presence as well as location of the specific defect. In practice, the specific tests utilized during the evaluation of a patient depend upon the underlying disorder. Typically, in evaluating the reproductive disorders discussed in this review, a primary battery of tests is obtained that reflects the initial clinical presentation and physical examination. The results of these initial studies then dictate any secondary testing required to complete the evaluation. Such an approach, in use at our institution, is provided in a table. Although this discussion has concentrated on the laboratory assessment of the female reproductive system, it is important to remember the special case of infertility, where couples, in general, are evaluated together by the clinician. The cause of inferility can reside with the female, the male, or, in the cases of immunological 'incompatibilities', a combination of the male and the female. As such, rigorous schemes for evaluating male reproductive disorders and immunological incompatibilities have been developed, and the information derived from such testing represents a critical contribution to establishing the etiology of a couple's infertility. Although the laboratory assessment of peptide and sex-steroid hormone concentrations clearly plays a pivotal role in the evaluation of reproductive disorders, these diagnostic tools probably will continue to change and improve in the years to come. Such changes will probably occur as the finer details of the operation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis become known. With this improved knowledge, we should have the capacity to design assays that will allow more clinically refined and biochemically precise means of diagnosing and treating specific reproductive disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)620-629
Number of pages10
JournalClinical chemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989

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