Comparison between testosterone enanthate-induced azoospermia and oligozoospermia in a male contraceptive study. I: Plasma luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, testosterone, estradiol, and inhibin concentrations

E. M. Wallace, S. M. Gow, F. C.W. Wu

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Sex-steroid based male contraceptive regimes induce azoospermia in only 40-70% of Caucasian men. The reason(s) why the remainder maintains a low level of spermatogenesis (oligozoospermia) despite gonadotrophin suppression is unclear. In order to improve our understanding of this phenomenon, we examined the changes in sperm density and plasma LH, FSH, testosterone (T), oestradiol (E2), and inhibin (IN) in 28 normal men who received 200 mg testosterone enanthate (TE) im weekly during a male contraceptive efficacy trial. Gonadotrophins were measured by an ultrasensitive time-resolved immunofluorometric assay (DELFIA) with a sensitivity of 0.04 U/L, to determine the adequacy of suppression. Seventeen of the 28 men achieved azoospermia; the other 11 remained oligozoospermic (sperm density 3.3-4.7 × 106/mL) after 6 months of TE exposure. Azoospermic subjects displayed a more rapid decline in sperm density, a significant difference being apparent by 5 weeks after starting TE. During TE treatment, both LH and FSH were consistently suppressed to below the limits of detection, whereas there was a 2.5-fold rise in T and E2 with a similar decrease in IN. There were no consistent differences in any of these hormone concentrations between the azoospermic and oligozoospermic groups. Recovery of sperm density to baseline levels or above 20 × 106/mL was significantly slower in the azoospermic group. During the recovery phase, the azoospermic men exhibited significantly higher LH and FSH levels compared to baseline and to the oligozoospermic subjects even though no differences in circulating T, E2, or IN were observed. We conclude that incomplete gonadotrophin suppression or differences in sex steroid or inhibin levels are unlikely to be responsible for the maintenance of minor degrees of spermatogenesis in some men during TE administration. The rebound rise in gonadotrophins in azoospermic but not oligozoospermic responders during recovery may reflect a more profound degree of spermatogenic suppression in the former group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-293
Number of pages4
JournalThe Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1993
Externally publishedYes

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