Total testosterone assays in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: Precision and correlation with hirsutism

Richard S. Legro, William D. Schlaff, Michael P. Diamond, Christos Coutifaris, Peter R. Casson, Robert G. Brzyski, Gregory M. Christman, J. C. Trussell, Stephen A. Krawetz, Peter J. Snyder, Dana Ohl, Sandra A. Carson, Michael P. Steinkampf, Bruce R. Carr, Peter G. McGovern, Nicholas A. Cataldo, Gabriella G. Gosman, John E. Nestler, Evan R. Myers, Nanette SantoroEsther Eisenberg, Meizhuo Zhang, Heping Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


Context: There is no standardized assay of testosterone in women. Liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC/MS) has been proposed as the preferable assay by an Endocrine Society Position Statement. Objective: The aim was to compare assay results from a direct RIA with two LC/MS. Design and Setting: We conducted a blinded laboratory study including masked duplicate samples at three laboratories - two academic (University of Virginia, RIA; and Mayo Clinic, LC/MS) and one commercial (Quest, LC/MS). Participants and Interventions: Baseline testosterone levels from 596 women with PCOS who participated in a large, multicenter, randomized controlled infertility trial performed at academic health centers in the United States were run by varying assays, and results were compared. Main Outcome Measure: We measured assay precision and correlation and baseline Ferriman-Gallwey hirsutism scores. Results: Median testosterone levels were highest with RIA. The correlations between the blinded samples that were run in duplicate were comparable. The correlation coefficient (CC) between LC/MS at Quest and Mayo was 0.83 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.80-0.85], between RIA and LC/MS at Mayo was 0.79 (95% CI, 0.76-0.82), and between RIA and LC/MS at Quest was 0.67 (95% CI, 0.63-0.72). Interassay variation was highest at the lower levels of total testosterone (≤50 ng/dl). The CC for Quest LC/MS was significantly different from those derived from the other assays. We found similar correlations between total testosterone levels and hirsutism score with the RIA (CC = 0.24), LC/MS at Mayo (CC = 0.15), or Quest (CC = 0.17). Conclusions: A testosterone RIA is comparable to LC/MS assays. There is significant variability between LC/MS assays and poor precision with all assays at low testosterone levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5305-5313
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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