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Polycystic ovary syndrome in the United States: clinical visit rates, characteristics, and associated health care costs


Background:  There are no national data on polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder of reproductive-aged women and the most frequent cause of oligoovulatory infertility.

Objective:  To assess the patient characteristics, treatment provided, and healthcare costs associated with PCOS medical visits in the United States.

Design:  National PCOS-related medical visits were characterized and compared to medical visits by similarly aged women being seen for issues other than PCOS, using the most recent data (2003-2008) from two U.S. National Center for Health Statistics surveys.  These surveys are designed to provide representative information about the provision and use of all nonfederal U.S. emergency departments, outpatient departments, and physician offices.

Results:  Over the entire time period, the average annual rate of PCOS-related medical visits was 2.6 per 1000 10-to-60-year- old women. Compared to women being seen for nonPCOS issues, those being seen for PCOS were significantly younger, even after age group-selection (mean 27 years vs. 38 years), and weighed more (mean 195 lbs vs. 169 lbs).  Higher proportions were by obese (50% vs. 18%, p<.0001) and diabetic (17% vs. 6%) women.  A contraceptive prescription was provided at 34% of PCOS visits and metformin, at 30%.  Diet and nutrition counseling was provided at 40% of PCOS visits by obese women, compared to 24% of visits by obese women being seen for nonPCOS issues (p=.045).  The estimated annual national healthcare cost associated with PCOS was $1.16 billion, with the greatest contributors being diabetes, obesity, contraceptives, initial evaluation, and infertility treatment.

Limitation:  Lack of direct access to patients and patient records.

Conclusions:  These findings represent the first national data on medical visits for PCOS, a chronic disease of considerable financial cost to the U.S. healthcare system.

Jason J

Arch. Intern. Med. 2011 Jul;171(13):1209-11

PMID: 21747019