A systematic review of tests predicting ovarian reserve and IVF outcome

F. J. Broekmans, J. Kwee, D. J. Hendriks, B. W. Mol, C. B. Lambalk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1001 Citations (Scopus)


The age-related decline of the success in IVF is largely attributable to a progressive decline of ovarian oocyte quality and quantity. Over the past two decades, a number of so-called ovarian reserve tests (ORTs) have been designed to determine oocyte reserve and quality and have been evaluated for their ability to predict the outcome of IVF in terms of oocyte yield and occurrence of pregnancy. Many of these tests have become part of the routine diagnostic procedure for infertility patients who undergo assisted reproductive techniques. The unifying goals are traditionally to find out how a patient will respond to stimulation and what are their chances of pregnancy. Evidence-based medicine has progressively developed as the standard approach for many diagnostic procedures and treatment options in the field of reproductive medicine. We here provide the first comprehensive systematic literature review, including an a priori protocolized information retrieval on all currently available and applied tests, namely early-follicular-phase blood values of FSH, estradiol, inhibin B and anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), the antral follicle count (AFC), the ovarian volume (OVVOL) and the ovarian blood flow, and furthermore the Clomiphene Citrate Challenge Test (CCCT), the exogenous FSH ORT (EFORT) and the gonadotrophin agonist stimulation test (GAST), all as measures to predict ovarian response and chance of pregnancy. We provide, where possible, an integrated receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis and curve of all individual evaluated published papers of each test, as well as a formal judgement upon the clinical value. Our analysis shows that the ORTs known to date have only modest-to-poor predictive properties and are therefore far from suitable for relevant clinical use. Accuracy of testing for the occurrence of poor ovarian response to hyperstimulation appears to be modest. Whether the a priori identification of actual poor responders in the first IVF cycle has any prognostic value for their chances of conception in the course of a series of IVF cycles remains to be established. The accuracy of predicting the occurrence of pregnancy is very limited. If a high threshold is used, to prevent couples from wrongly being refused IVF, a very small minority of IVF-indicated cases (∼3%) are identified as having unfavourable prospects in an IVF treatment cycle. Although mostly inexpensive and not very demanding, the use of any ORT for outcome prediction cannot be supported. As poor ovarian response will provide some information on OR status, especially if the stimulation is maximal, entering the first cycle of IVF without any prior testing seems to be the preferable strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)685-718
Number of pages34
JournalHuman Reproduction Update
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2006


  • IVF/ICSI outcome
  • Ovarian reserve
  • Ovarian stimulation


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