Fresh and cumulative live birth rates in mild versus conventional stimulation for IVF cycles in poor ovarian responders: a systematic review and meta-analysis.Hum Reprod Open. 2021; 2021(1):hoaa066.HR
Are cumulative and live birth rates (LBRs) comparable in poor ovarian response women treated with different protocols of mild stimulation IVF (i.e. oral compounds, lower doses or shorter treatments) versus conventional IVF?
Mild ovarian stimulation (MOS) results in comparable outcomes to those of conventional stimulation in poor ovarian response patients with low ovarian reserve.
WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY
Several randomized trials and meta-analyses have been published evaluating the role of mild (MOS) versus conventional ovarian stimulation in poor ovarian response patients. Most report a potentially higher safety profile, patient satisfaction and lower costs, suggesting that the higher cycle cancellation rate and fewer oocytes retrieved following MOS does not affect the final reproductive outcome. Additionally, over the last few years, new publications have added data regarding MOS, and shown the possible benefit of a higher oocyte yield which may also improve prognosis in patients with poor ovarian response.
STUDY DESIGN SIZE DURATION
We conducted a systematic search of relevant randomized controlled trials (RCTs). We searched electronic databases, including MEDLINE, EMBASE, LILACS-BIREME, CINAHL, The Cochrane Library, CENTRAL (Cochrane Register), Web of Science, Scopus, Trip Database and Open Grey, to identify all relevant studies published up to March 2020. We examined trial registries for ongoing trials. No publication-year or language restrictions were adopted. We explored the reference list of all included studies, reviews and abstracts of major scientific meetings. The primary outcomes were cumulative and fresh LBR (CLBR and FLBR) per woman randomized.
PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS SETTING METHODS
We included subfertile women undergoing IVF/ICSI characterized as poor responders and compared primary and secondary outcomes between the different protocols of mild stimulation IVF (i.e. oral compounds, lower doses or shorter treatments) and conventional IVF. We used the PICO (Patients, Intervention, Comparison and Outcomes) model to select our study population.
MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE
Overall, 15 RCTs were included in the meta-analysis. CLBR and FLBR were comparable between mild versus conventional stimulation (RR 1.15; 95% CI: 0.73 - 1.81; I2 = 0%, n = 424, moderate certainty and RR 1.01; 95% CI: 0.97 - 1.04; I 2 = 0%, n = 1001, low certainty, respectively). No difference was observed either when utilizing oral compounds (i.e. letrozole and clomiphene) or lower doses. Similarly, ongoing pregnancy rate (OPR) and clinical pregnancy rate (CPR) were equivalent when comparing the two groups (RR 1.01; 95% CI: 0.98 - 1.05; I 2 = 0%, n = 1480, low certainty, and RR 1.00; 95% CI: 0.97 - 1.03; I2 = 0%, n = 2355, low certainty, respectively). A significantly lower oocyte yield (mean differences (MD) -0.80; 95% CI: -1.28, -0.32; I2 = 83%, n = 2516, very low certainty) and higher rate of cycle cancellation (RR 1.48; 95% CI: 1.08 - 2.02; I2 = 62%, n = 2588, low certainty) was observed in the MOS group.
LIMITATIONS REASONS FOR CAUTION
The overall quality of the included studies was low to moderate. Even though strict inclusion criteria were used, the selected studies were heterogeneous in population characteristics and treatment protocols. We found no differences in CLBR between MOS and COS (95% CI: 0.73 - 1.81.).
WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS
MOS could be considered as a treatment option in low prognosis poor responder patients, given that it results in similar fresh and CLBRs compared with COS. A milder approach is associated with a lower number of oocytes retrieved and a higher cancellation rate, although treatment cost is significantly reduced. Future research should focus on which type of ovarian stimulation may be of benefit in better prognosis women.
STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTERESTS
There were no sources of financial support. N.P.P. received research grants, honoraria for lectures from: Merck Serono, MSD, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Besins International, Roche Diagnostics, IBSA, Theramex and Gedeon Richter. P.D. received unrestricted grants and honoraria from Merck Serono, MSD and Ferring Pharmaceuticals. I.G.F. received unrestricted grants and honoraria from Merck Serono, MSD, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Gedeon-Richter and IBSA. P.M.B. reported no conflict of interest.
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