The number of in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles performed in the US has been increasing steadily (75, 516 cycles in 2000 vs. 101,213 cycles in 2011). There have been considerable advances that have improved patient safety from IVF complications. These include less aggressive stimulation protocols, transvaginal ultrasound-guided egg retrievals instead of laparoscopy, reduced number of embryos being transferred.
Still, it is normal for those considering fertility treatment to ask questions about IVF complications and safety.
Kawwass and co-researchers from Atlanta, Georgia have addressed this very issue in a recent research letter (JAMA 2015, 313:88-90). They analyzed 1,135, 206 IVF cycles over a 11 year period (2000 – 2011) using the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National ART Surveillance System (NASS). These researchers concluded that the risks associated with IVF cycles is low.
The complications analyzed included ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), infection, bleeding requiring blood transfusion, medication adverse event, anesthetic complication, hospitalization, patient death within 12 weeks of stimulation, and maternal death prior to infant birth.
The most commonly reported complications were OHSS (peak of 153.5/10,000 cycles; CI, 146.0 – 161.3) and hospitalizations (peak of 34.8/10,000 cycles; 95% CI, 30.9 – 39.3). Rates of other complications remained below 10/10,000 cycles.
Fifty-eight total deaths were reported (18 stimulation related and 40 maternal deaths prior to infant birth (16 singleton, 16 twins, 2 triplets or higher and 6 unknown)). The maternal death rate ranged from 1.6 per 100,000 ART conceived live births in 2008 to 14.2 in 2004.
The authors determined that IVF cycles were associated with low risks with respect to both stimulation and surgical treatment. OHSS remains the most common complication.
There are several steps that can be taken to minimize the risk of severe OHSS. These have been discussed in a previous blog.
So, a short answer to this very important question is “yes!”
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