Pregnancy and birth outcomes following fresh or vitrified embryo transfer according to blastocyst morphology and expansion stage, and culturing strategy for delayed development

B Wirleitner, M Schuff, A Stecher, M Murtinger, P Vanderzwalmen
Human Reproduction 2016, 31 (8): 1685-95

STUDY QUESTION: How do live birth rates (LBRs), following fresh and vitrified/warmed embryo transfer, compare according to morphological grade, developmental stage and culturing strategy of human blastocysts in vitro?

SUMMARY ANSWER: Equivalent LBRs were obtained after fresh embryo transfer and after vitrified/warmed embryo transfer of blastocysts of top or non-top quality, while vitrification after prolonged embryo culture of blastocysts with delayed development had a positive impact on LBR.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Blastocyst morphology correlates with clinical outcome; however, few data are available on vitrified/warmed embryo transfer using non-top quality blastocysts. The aim of this study was to determine clinical outcomes of non-top quality blastocysts and blastocysts with delayed development that underwent vitrified/warmed embryo transfer.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: This retrospective, single-centre study (conducted January 2009 to June 2013) compared 1010 fresh embryo transfer and 1270 vitrified/warmed embryo transfer of blastocysts originating from the same stimulation cycle. Furthermore, 636 fresh embryo transfers and 304 vitrified/warmed embryo transfer after delayed expansion or blastulation in the same period were also analysed.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Clinical outcomes after fresh and vitrified/warmed embryo transfer according to blastocyst morphology were compared in both groups.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Similar LBRs after fresh embryo transfer or after vitrified/warmed embryo transfer of top or non-top quality blastocysts were observed. A statistically significant improvement in clinical outcomes was obtained after vitrified/warmed embryo transfer of Day 5 embryos with delayed expansion or blastulation when applying prolonged culture. Our study suggests that vitrification of non-top quality blastocysts as well as delayed cavitating and blastulating Day 5 embryos should be considered in autologous IVF cycles.

LIMITATIONS AND REASONS FOR CAUTION: Given that the present retrospective study used aseptic vitrification of blastocysts, the results, particularly the survival rates, may not be fully applicable to other vitrification protocols. The retrospective nature of the study has to be mentioned.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Restriction of vitrification to top quality blastocysts may result in discarding potentially viable embryos.

STUDY FUNDING AND COMPETING INTERESTS: This study was not externally funded. There are no conflicts of interest to declare.

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