April 18, 2011

Safer IVF

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a common way to help couples that struggle with infertility. However, IVF can increase the risk of multiples, which can lead to medical complications. Now, a new study shows there is a major decrease in risk and cost if single embryo transfers are mandated for IVF.

Researchers reviewed information from hospital records from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Canada. They found 82 infants (17 percent) admitted to the NICU during a two-year period were the result of multiple births with some form of assisted reproductive technology. Of these, 75 were twins or triplets whose mothers used IVF. Among the 75 babies, six died, five developed a brain bleed, and four developed a potentially-blinding eye condition.

The authors calculated the estimated reduction of complications and costs if doctors administering the IVF only transferred one embryo at a time. "Across Canada, there would be as many as 840 fewer babies admitted to the NICU, 40 deaths avoided, 46 fewer brain injuries, and 42,400 fewer days of NICU hospitalization," Dr. Keith Barrington from the University of Montreal, was quoted as saying.

According to the researchers, each day an infant stays in the NICU costs roughly $1,000, so the savings would be significant if single embryo transfers were mandatory. Because there were roughly 20-times as many IVF procedures performed in the United States than in Canada in 2008, the savings in the U.S. would be even greater.

The study authors strongly recommend single embryo transfers but because they know IVF procedures can be expensive and challenging, they also advocate reimbursement for additional costs.

"Since July 2010, all of the fertility centers in Quebec have adopted this approach, and preliminary results show that twin gestation rates have dropped from 30 percent to 3.8 percent," Dr. Barrington said.

SOURCE: Journal of Pediatrics, April 14, 2011