A long-term outcome study of intersex conditions

Garry Warne, Sonia Grover, John Hutson, Andrew Sinclair, Sylvia Metcalfe, Elisabeth Northam, Justin Freeman et al.
Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism: JPEM 2005, 18 (6): 555-67

CONTEXT: Clinical management of intersex conditions is controversial because the available evidence is limited and conflicting, with no long-term population based studies comparing matched controls.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the long-term psychological, sexual and social outcomes of patients with intersex compared with two matched control populations.

DESIGN, SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Three different aged-matched (18-32 years) patient groups completed a self-administered questionnaire of established quality of life and well-being inventories measuring physical' health, psychological adjustment and sexuality, following a mail-out to all identified patients. The intersex group (n = 50) and the Hirschsprung disease, a congenital disorder, control group (n = 27), were patients who had attended the Royal Children's Hospital, a tertiary centre, for their clinical care. The insulin dependent diabetes mellitus control group was recruited from an adult tertiary hospital. The study was conducted at the hospital-based Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Psychological, sexual and social outcomes.

RESULTS: The intersex group did not differ from controls on physical or mental health, depression, state anxiety, neuroticism, psychoticism or stressful life events. Intersex participants were satisfied with their overall body appearance, although intersex males were less satisfied than controls with the size (p <0.05) and appearance (p <0.01) of their sex organs. The intersex group was less likely to experience orgasm (p <0.05), tended to experience more pain during intercourse (p = 0.06), had more difficulties with penetration (p <0.01) and were less likely to have sexual activity several times or more a week (p <0.05) than the combined control groups. Intersex participants did not differ from controls in level of sexual desire or enjoyment of sexual activities.

CONCLUSIONS: Most patients with intersex had positive psychosocial and psychosexual outcomes, although some problems were reported with sexual activity. These results overall suggest that a model of care including early genital surgery carried out at a centre of excellence with a multidisciplinary team can minimize long-term complication rates.

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