Adolescent polycystic ovary syndrome according to the international evidence-based guideline

Alexia S. Peña, Selma F. Witchel, Kathleen M. Hoeger, Sharon E. Oberfield, Maria G. Vogiatzi, Marie Misso, Rhonda Garad, Preeti Dabadghao, Helena Teede

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleOtherpeer-review

139 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Diagnosing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) during adolescence is challenging because features of normal pubertal development overlap with adult diagnostic criteria. The international evidence-based PCOS Guideline aimed to promote accurate and timely diagnosis, to optimise consistent care, and to improve health outcomes for adolescents and women with PCOS. Methods: International healthcare professionals, evidence synthesis teams and consumers informed the priorities, reviewed published data and synthesised the recommendations for the Guideline. The Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) framework was applied to appraise the evidence quality and the feasibility, acceptability, cost, implementation and strength of the recommendations. Results: This paper focuses on the specific adolescent PCOS Guideline recommendations. Specific criteria to improve diagnostic accuracy and avoid over diagnosis include: (1) irregular menstrual cycles defined according to years post-menarche; > 90 days for any one cycle (> 1 year post-menarche), cycles< 21 or > 45 days (> 1 to < 3 years post-menarche); cycles < 21 or > 35 days (> 3 years post-menarche) and primary amenorrhea by age 15 or > 3 years post-thelarche. Irregular menstrual cycles (< 1 year post-menarche) represent normal pubertal transition. (2) Hyperandrogenism defined as hirsutism, severe acne and/or biochemical hyperandrogenaemia confirmed using validated high-quality assays. (3) Pelvic ultrasound not recommended for diagnosis of PCOS within 8 years post menarche. (4) Anti-Müllerian hormone levels not recommended for PCOS diagnosis; and (5) exclusion of other disorders that mimic PCOS. For adolescents who have features of PCOS but do not meet diagnostic criteria an 'at risk' label can be considered with appropriate symptomatic treatment and regular re-evaluations. Menstrual cycle re-evaluation can occur over 3 years post menarche and where only menstrual irregularity or hyperandrogenism are present initially, evaluation with ultrasound can occur after 8 years post menarche. Screening for anxiety and depression is required and assessment of eating disorders warrants consideration. Available data endorse the benefits of healthy lifestyle interventions to prevent excess weight gain and should be recommended. For symptom management, the combined oral contraceptive pill and/or metformin may be beneficial. Conclusions: Extensive international engagement accompanied by rigorous processes honed both diagnostic criteria and treatment recommendations for PCOS during adolescence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number72
Number of pages16
JournalBMC Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2020


  • Adolescents
  • Diagnosis
  • Evidence-based
  • Girls
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Treatment

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