Context: Acupuncture may represent a nonpharmaceutical treatment for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), based on four studies.
Objective: The objective of the study was to determine whether true, as compared with sham, acupuncture normalizes pituitary gonadotropin hormones and increases ovulatory frequency in women with PCOS.
Design: This was a randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled clinical trial (5 month protocol).
Setting: The study was conducted in central Virginia.
Participants: Eighty-four reproductive-aged women completed the intervention. Eligibility required a PCOS diagnosis and no hormonal intervention 60 d before enrollment.
Interventions: Intervention included 12 sessions of true or sham acupuncture (Park sham device) for 8 wk.
Main Outcome Measures: Serum LH and FSH at baseline, after intervention, and 3 months later were measured. Ovulation was measured with weekly urine or blood samples.
Results: Both arms demonstrated a similar mean ovulation rate over the 5 months (0.37/month among n = 40 true acupuncture and 0.40/month among n = 44 sham participants, P = 0.6), similar LH to FSH ratio improvement (−0.5 and −0.8 true and sham, respectively, P < 0.04 after intervention vs. baseline) and a similar decline in LH over the 5-month protocol (P < 0.05). Neither arm experienced a change in FSH. There were seven pregnancies (no difference by intervention, P = 0.7). Lower fasting insulin and free testosterone were highly correlated with a higher ovulation rate within the true acupuncture group only (P = 0.03), controlling for prestudy menstrual frequency and body mass index.
Conclusion: We were unable to discern a difference between the true and sham acupuncture protocols for these women with PCOS, and both groups had a similar improvement in their LH/FSH ratio.