Monitoring of stimulated cycles in assisted reproduction (IVF and ICSI)

Irene Kwan* (Corresponding Author), Siladitya Bhattacharya, Andrea Woolner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Monitoring of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is necessary to detect as well as reduce the incidence and severity of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) whilst achieving the optimal ovarian response needed for assisted reproduction treatment. Traditional monitoring of ovarian hyperstimulation during in vitro fertilisation IVF and ICSI treatment has included transvaginal ultrasonography (TVUS) plus serum estradiol levels. The need for combined monitoring (using TVUS and serum estradiol) during ovarian stimulation in assisted reproduction is controversial. It has been suggested that combined monitoring is time consuming, expensive and inconvenient for women and that simplification of IVF and ICSI therapy by using TVUS only should be considered. OBJECTIVES: To assess the effect of monitoring controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH) in IVF and ICSI cycles in subfertile couples with TVUS only versus TVUS plus serum estradiol concentration, with respect to rates of live birth, pregnancy and OHSS.

SEARCH METHODS: In this update conducted in March 2020, two review authors searched the Cochrane Gynaecology and Fertility Group's Specialised Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, PsycINFO, the National Research Register, and web-based trial registers. There was no language restriction applied. All references in the identified trials and background papers were checked and authors were contacted to identify relevant published and unpublished data.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Only randomised controlled trials that compared monitoring with TVUS only versus TVUS plus serum estradiol concentrations in women undergoing COH for IVF and ICSI treatment were included.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors (IK, AW) independently selected the studies, extracted data and assessed risk of bias. We resolved disagreements by discussion. Outcomes data were pooled and summary statistics were presented when appropriate. The quality of the evidence was rated using the GRADE methods.

MAIN RESULTS: We did not identify any new eligible studies in this update in 2020. The evidence based on the six trials identified in 2014 remained unchanged. They included 781 women undergoing monitoring of COH with either TVUS alone or a combination of TVUS and serum estradiol concentration during IVF or ICSI treatment. None of the six studies reported our primary outcome of live birth rate. Two studies presented pregnancy rate per initiated cycle and per embryo transfer, respectively. Four studies reported pregnancy rate per woman with pooled data; we are uncertain of the effect of monitoring with TVUS only versus combined monitoring on clinical pregnancy rate per woman (odds ratio (OR) 1.10; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.79 to 1.54; four studies; N = 617; I² = 5%; low quality evidence). This suggests in women with a 36% chance of clinical pregnancy using monitoring with TVUS plus serum estradiol, the clinical pregnancy rate using TVUS only would be between 31% and 46%. We are uncertain of any effect in the mean number of oocytes retrieved per woman (mean difference (MD) 0.32; 95% CI -0.60 to 1.24; five studies; N = 596; I² = 17%; low quality evidence). We are uncertain whether monitoring with TVUS only versus combined monitoring affected the incidence of OHSS (OR 1.03; 95% CI 0.48 to 2.20; six studies; N = 781; I² = 0%; low quality evidence), suggesting that in women with a 4% chance of OHSS using monitoring with TVUS plus serum estradiol, the OHSS rate monitored by TVUS only would be between 2% and 8%. The cycle cancellation rate was similar in both arms of two studies (0/34 versus 1/31, 1/25 versus 1/25; OR 0.57; 95% CI 0.07 to 4.39; N = 115; I² = 0%; low quality evidence). The evidence was low quality for all comparisons. Limitations included imprecision and potential bias due to unclear randomisation methods, allocation concealment and blinding, as well as differences in treatment protocols. Quality assessment was hampered by the lack of methodological descriptions in several studies.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: This review update found no new randomised trials. Evidence from the six studies previously identified did not suggest that combined monitoring by TVUS and serum estradiol is more efficacious than monitoring by TVUS alone with regard to clinical pregnancy rates and the incidence of OHSS. The number of oocytes retrieved appeared similar for both monitoring protocols. The data suggest that both these monitoring methods are safe and reliable. However, these results should be interpreted with caution because the overall quality of the evidence was low. Results were compromised by imprecision and poor reporting of study methodology. The choice of one or the other method may depend upon the convenience of its use, and the associated costs. An economic evaluation of the costs involved with the two methods and the views of the women undergoing cycle monitoring would be welcome.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD005289
Number of pages36
JournalThe Cochrane database of systematic reviews
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

We are grateful to Marian Showell for her help in updating the search strategy and carrying out the literature search; to Anne Lethaby for translating the Spanish paper and extracting data; and in particular to Helen Nagels and Jane Marjoribanks for their editorial assistance, help with GRADE, general co‐ordination and assisting with teleconferences among authors. We also thank Helen Nagels for her help in translating the French paper and extracting the data. We also thank Dr Angela Kang for her contribution to the update of this review in 2014.

We thank Dr Elena Kostova for commenting on the 2020 draft update.


  • Biomarkers/blood
  • Estradiol/blood
  • Female
  • Fertilization in Vitro
  • Humans
  • Live Birth
  • Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome/diagnosis
  • Ovulation Induction/methods
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Rate
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sperm Injections, Intracytoplasmic
  • Ultrasonography


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