Endothelial function measured using flow-mediated dilation in polycystic ovary syndrome: a meta-analysis of the observational studies

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2013 Mar;78(3):438-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2265.2012.04490.x.


Objective: Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) demonstrate an increased prevalence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. Previous researchers have compared flow-mediated dilation (FMD), an early marker of CVD, in women with and without PCOS. Evidence for a PCOS-mediated reduction in FMD remains equivocal, potentially because of study differences in cohort-matching and measurement approaches. The aims of this systematic review and meta-analysis were to examine to what extent FMD is impaired in PCOS and to explore the influence of potential moderators of FMD reduction, such as age and BMI.

Design: A systematic review and meta-analysis of published observational studies comparing FMD in PCOS with control women.

Patients: Twenty-one published studies were included (PCOS, n = 908; controls, n = 566). A subanalysis, using tighter inclusion criteria, involved seven studies (PCOS, n = 402; control, n = 251).

Measurements: Mean differences in FMD between PCOS and controls were synthesized. The subanalysis was delimited to the inclusion of age and BMI-matched controls. These factors were then explored as moderators using meta-regression.

Results: The pooled mean FMD was 3.4% (95% CI=1.9, 4.9) lower in PCOS compared with control women, with substantial heterogeneity between studies. In the subanalysis, the PCOS-mediated reduction in FMD was 4.1% (95% CI=2.7, 5.5). Heterogeneity remained substantial (I(2) =81%). Subsequent meta-regression indicated that the magnitude of FMD difference was not influenced by BMI (P = 0.17) nor age (P = 0.38).

Conclusions: This systematic research synthesis indicates that endothelial function is compromised in PCOS women, even if they are young and nonobese.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology*
  • Vasodilation / physiology*