Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist versus HCG for oocyte triggering in antagonist-assisted reproductive technology cycles

Review question

We reviewed the evidence on the effects of GnRH agonists on final oocyte maturation triggering in GnRH antagonist IVF/ICSI treatment cycles.

Background

Oocyte maturation triggering is the final differentiation process of an immature oocyte before fertilisation in unstimulated or stimulated cycles with assisted reproductive techniques. Two hormones can be used to trigger oocyte maturation: human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which is the standard treatment, and gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRH agonist). In this review, we assessed the benefits and harms of GnRH agonists as oocyte maturation triggers. Evidence is current to September 2014.

Study characteristics

We included 17 studies of 1817 women. Researchers assessed fresh or donor cycles in women at varying risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). The authors of four studies stated that the studies were commercially funded. Most studies failed to disclose their funding source.

Key results

GnRH agonist triggers significantly reduce the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation but also lower the chance of pregnancy in fresh autologous IVF/ICSI treatment cycles compared with HCG. GnRH agonist use as an oocyte maturation trigger could be useful for women who choose to avoid fresh transfers (for whatever reason), women who donate oocytes to recipients or women who wish to freeze their eggs for later use in the context of fertility preservation.

Quality of the evidence

The overall quality of the evidence was moderate for most comparisons. The main limitation in the quality of the evidence was risk of bias associated with poor reporting of study methods.

Authors' conclusions: 

Final oocyte maturation triggering with GnRH agonist instead of HCG in fresh autologous GnRH antagonist IVF/ICSI treatment cycles prevents OHSS to the detriment of the live birth rate. In donor-recipient cycles, use of GnRH agonists instead of HCG resulted in a lower incidence of OHSS, with no evidence of a difference in live birth rate.

Evidence suggests that GnRH agonist as a final oocyte maturation trigger in fresh autologous cycles is associated with a lower live birth rate, a lower ongoing pregnancy rate (pregnancy beyond 12 weeks) and a higher rate of early miscarriage (less than 12 weeks). GnRH agonist as an oocyte maturation trigger could be useful for women who choose to avoid fresh transfers (for whatever reason), women who donate oocytes to recipients or women who wish to freeze their eggs for later use in the context of fertility preservation.

Read the full abstract...
Background: 

Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is routinely used for final oocyte maturation triggering in in vitro fertilisation (IVF)/intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) cycles, but the use of HCG for this purpose may have drawbacks. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists present an alternative to HCG in controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH) treatment regimens in which the cycle has been down-regulated with a GnRH antagonist. This is an update of a review first published in 2010.

Objectives: 

To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of GnRH agonists in comparison with HCG for triggering final oocyte maturation in IVF and ICSI for women undergoing COH in a GnRH antagonist protocol.

Search strategy: 

We searched databases including the Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group (MDSG) Specialised Register of Controlled Trials, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) and trial registers for published and unpublished articles (in any language) on randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists versus HCG for oocyte triggering in GnRH antagonist IVF/ICSI treatment cycles. The search is current to 8 September 2014.

Selection criteria: 

RCTs that compared the clinical outcomes of GnRH agonist triggers versus HCG for final oocyte maturation triggering in women undergoing GnRH antagonist IVF/ICSI treatment cycles were included.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two or more review authors independently selected studies, extracted data and assessed study risk of bias. Treatment effects were summarised using a fixed-effect model, and subgroup analyses were conducted to explore potential sources of heterogeneity. Treatment effects were expressed as mean differences (MDs) for continuous outcomes and as odds ratios (ORs) for dichotomous outcomes, together with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Primary outcomes were live birth and rate of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) per women randomised. Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) methods were used to assess the quality of the evidence for each comparison.

Main results: 

We included 17 RCTs (n = 1847), of which 13 studies assessed fresh autologous cycles and four studies assessed donor-recipient cycles. In fresh autologous cycles, GnRH agonists were associated with a lower live birth rate than was seen with HCG (OR 0.47, 95% CI 0.31 to 0.70; five RCTs, 532 women, I2 = 56%, moderate-quality evidence). This suggests that for a woman with a 31% chance of achieving live birth with the use of HCG, the chance of a live birth with the use of an GnRH agonist would be between 12% and 24%.

In women undergoing fresh autologous cycles, GnRH agonists were associated with a lower incidence of mild, moderate or severe OHSS than was HCG (OR 0.15, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.47; eight RCTs, 989 women, I² = 42%, moderate-quality evidence). This suggests that for a woman with a 5% risk of mild, moderate or severe OHSS with the use of HCG, the risk of OHSS with the use of a GnRH agonist would be between nil and 2%.

In women undergoing fresh autologous cycles, GnRH agonists were associated with a lower ongoing pregnancy rate than was seen with HCG (OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.54 to 0.91; 11 studies, 1198 women, I2 = 59%, low-quality evidence) and a higher early miscarriage rate (OR 1.74, 95% CI 1.10 to 2.75; 11 RCTs, 1198 women, I² = 1%, moderate-quality evidence). However, the effect was dependent on the type of luteal phase support provided (with or without luteinising hormone (LH) activity); the higher rate of pregnancies in the HCG group applied only to the group that received luteal phase support without LH activity (OR 0.36, 95% CI 0.21 to 0.62; I2 = 73%, five RCTs, 370 women). No evidence was found of a difference between groups in risk of multiple pregnancy (OR 3.00, 95% CI 0.30 to 30.47; two RCTs, 62 women, I2 = 0%, low-quality evidence).

In women with donor-recipient cycles, no evidence suggested a difference between groups in live birth rate (OR 0.92, 95% CI 0.53 to 1.61; one RCT, 212 women) or ongoing pregnancy rate (OR 0.88, 95% CI 0.58 to 1.32; three RCTs, 372 women, I² = 0%). We found evidence of a lower incidence of OHSS in the GnRH agonist group than in the HCG group (OR 0.05, 95% CI 0.01 to 0.28; three RCTs, 374 women, I² = 0%).

The main limitation in the quality of the evidence was risk of bias associated with poor reporting of methods in the included studies.

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