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Induction of fertility in men with secondary hypogonadism

Peter J Snyder, MD
Section Editor
Alvin M Matsumoto, MD
Deputy Editor
Kathryn A Martin, MD


Sperm production cannot be stimulated in men who are infertile as a result of primary hypogonadism due to damage to the seminiferous tubules. On the other hand, sperm production can usually be stimulated to a level sufficient to restore fertility in men who are infertile as a result of secondary hypogonadism, ie, due to damage to the pituitary or hypothalamus. Men who have pituitary disease can be treated with gonadotropins, while those with hypothalamic disease can be treated with gonadotropins or gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). (See "Causes of secondary hypogonadism in males".)


Which patients are likely to respond? — The diagnosis of secondary hypogonadism must be firmly established before therapy is begun since only patients whose infertility is due to this disorder will respond. We recommend treatment with gonadotropins for most men who have secondary hypogonadism due to either hypothalamic or pituitary disease who wish to become fertile (see "Clinical features and diagnosis of male hypogonadism"). Gonadotropin treatment will not increase the sperm count in men who have idiopathic oligospermia, in which a subnormal sperm count is associated with a normal serum testosterone concentration [1].

Several factors enhance the likelihood that the sperm count will be increased and increased sooner after gonadotropin administration:

Development of hypogonadism after puberty rather than before. In one study, as an example, all six men whose hypogonadism occurred postpubertally experienced an increase in total sperm count from less than one million to above 40 million per ejaculate when treated with human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) (see 'Initial treatment: hCG' below). In comparison, only one of eight men whose hypogonadism occurred prepubertally (but without cryptorchidism) had a similar response [2].

Partial hypogonadism, rather than complete, as judged by testes that are not as small [3-6] and serum concentrations of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), inhibin B, and testosterone that are not as low [7].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Dec 04, 2017.
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