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Preventing Ovarian Hyperstimulation: The Lupron Trigger

Posted Apr 10 2011 3:37pm
Hello everyone, this is another important article on Ovarian Hyperstimulation. The response from readers on this subject has been very positive, thanks for your support.

Saving the best for last, an excellent way to prevent OHSS is to use Lurpon. This requires some explanation.

As many of you have experienced, Lupron is a drug that can be used during an IVF cycle. It is typically started about 1 week before the IVF cycle starts (day 21) or it can be started on day 2. The dose varies, but the usual options are regular lupron, low dose lupron or microdose lupron. None of these have anything to do with reducing OHSS, but I will get to that.

Lupron works by suppressing the pituitary’s ability to produce LH. This is good because in all of the Lupron protocols I just mentioned, one important job of Lupron is to prevent the premature surge of LH. The surge of LH causes ovulation, which is bad for an IVF cycle. If LH surges before the hCG injection, we cancel the cycle for premature ovulation.

We can’t get the eggs when we want them if they have ovulated prior to the retrieval. Lupron prevents this. Before Lupron was invented, we needed to cancel about 15% of IVF cycle for early ovulation.

Some of you are wondering why we trigger ovulation if we want to get eggs from the ovary. LH, hCG and Lupron cause the eggs to mature and then ovulate. For an IVF cycle, we need those medications to get the eggs to mature while still in the ovary, but we grab them before they are released.

Over the past decade we have been using other drugs, like Cetrotide and Ganarelix, to prevent the premature LH surge. These are easier to use than the Lupron because they are only given 2-4 days prior to the hCG. Some doctors still prefer to use Lupron.

Now on to OHSS and Lupron. In a natural ovulation cycle using no drugs, the follicle develops over about 2 weeks, and then a strong surge in LH causes ovulation. While Lupron causes the pituitary to cease LH secretion, in the first 1-2 days of Lupron use, there is a strong release of LH. That’s why we normally give it early in the cycle, before follicles have developed. Premature ovulation does not occur when we give it early because there are no follicles to ovulate.

It is this strong release of LH that makes Lupron great as a hCG substitute for the trigger shot. The quick surge results in a very short blast of LH, which could take place over 1-2 hours. This is very similar to the body’s LH surge that takes place in a natural cycle. After that, the LH has left the system, ovulation occurs 36 hours later, and ovarian stimulation stops. hCG, on the other hand, stays in the body for days, even up to 2 weeks. All of this time, hCG stimulates and stimulates the ovaries, which is too much for ovaries that have released many eggs.

Why give an hCG instead of a LH injection? For iui and IVF we use hCG as opposed to LH because hCG is easier to make and cheaper than LH, and hCG works just as well. The molecules of hcg and LH are very similar and act in similar ways. Plus, the drug companies have not yet figured out how to get the necessary large amounts of LH cheaply into one little vial.

The bottom line is that Lupron, because it causes just a short burst of LH, works very well in preventing OHSS. We are using it more and more and are very pleased with the results. We commonly use it for our egg donors.

One down side to lupron is that, in very small percentage of cases, it may not cause ovulation. This is a rare occurrence and is more likely to happen in women who are hypothalamic, i.e. they do not get regular ovulation due to exercise, dieting or some other factor. In these cases, there is no LH in the pituitary for Lupron to trigger.

In cases where the threat of OHSS is evident, it’s worth taking a chance with the Lupron. We measure LH levels the day after the Lupron injection. If they are very low, the lupron did not work, and there is no LH surge. Therefore we can give hCG the next day, unless the fear of OHSS causes us to cancel the cycle.

Another detail of Lupron use is that for luteal support, we add estrogen. The ovaries just shut down after Lupron use, and therefore estrogen and progesterone are produced in very low quantities. Typically we prescribe progesterone post IVF, but with Lupron we also give estrogen. Not much of a big deal, as estrogen can be given in the form of a pill three times per day. Estrogen patches can also be used.

Lupron cannot be used for triggering if Lupron has been used in the same cycle. So you are taking Lupron starting on day 21, day 2 or using microflare lupron, a Lupron trigger will not work at all. Here hCG would be the only option.

Many other physicians have been increasing their use of Lupron for ovulation triggering. You should ask your doctor if Lupron is used in his practice to prevent ovarian hyperstimulation.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading, and please read disclaimer 5/17/06.
Dr. Licciardi
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