Techniques for preparation prior to embryo transfer

Embryo transfer (ET) is the final and most vulnerable step in in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment. In vitro fertilisation outcomes could be improved by preparation techniques such as straightening the utero-cervical angle, cervical and endometrial preparation, the performance of a dummy transfer and embryo afterloading. This review found no evidence from randomised controlled trials that any of these techniques benefit the outcomes in IVF.

Authors' conclusions: 

On the basis of the evidence in this review, no specific implications for practice are made. It is recommended, in general, that more, larger studies are done on ET preparation techniques. The studies need to be of a higher quality with better explained methods, more specified inclusion and exclusion criteria, and more participants.

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Background: 

Embryo transfer (ET) is the final and most vulnerable step in in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment. Pregnancy rates after ET may be influenced by several factors including cervical preparation, the performance of a dummy or mock transfer, the choice of catheter, the use of ultrasound guidance, removing the mucus or blood on the catheter, and straightening of the utero-cervical angle. Recent research has focused on improving the embryo transfer technique in the hope of increasing the success rates of IVF. This review focused on preparation techniques as it is unclear whether these simple interventions will make ET an easier procedure with higher success rates and lower complication rates.

Objectives: 

To determine whether different preparation techniques prior to ET result in improved IVF outcomes.

Search strategy: 

The Cochrane Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group Specialised Register, CENTRAL (The Cochrane Library), MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and PsycINFO were searched (November 2008). The citation lists of relevant publications, reviews, and included studies were handsearched. Experts in the field were contacted to identify any unpublished trials.

Selection criteria: 

Only truly randomised controlled trials of the interventions straightening the utero-cervical angle, dummy transfer prior to ET, cervical and endometrial preparation, and embryo afterloading were included. The primary outcomes were live birth rate and pregnancy rate per woman randomised. Participants were women with any type of subfertility undergoing IVF treatment and reaching the ET stage.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors critically appraised potentially eligible studies. Ten studies were included in this review and data were independently extracted by two review authors. Disagreements were resolved by discussion and involvement of a third author. Risk of bias was also independently assessed by two authors. Dichotomous outcome data were expressed as Peto odds ratios. Subgroup analysis and the investigation of heterogeneity were planned.

Main results: 

At the time of ET, there was no evidence of benefit with the following interventions: full bladder, removal of cervical mucus, flushing the endocervical canal or the endometrial cavity. We did not identify any eligible studies for dummy transfer, changing patient position, the use of a tenaculum, or embryo afterloading.

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